Auction Goes Into Lightning Rounds

WASHINGTON—The TV spectrum incentive action is going into lightning rounds as the prices inch up in a handful of smaller markets where demand continues to exceed supply. Bidding will go from four, one-hour rounds to six lasting 40 minutes each, beginning Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 10 a.m. ET.

Bidding continued in just 26 out of 416 wireless licensing partial economic areas (PEAs) at the end of round 41 on Tuesday afternoon. Most were in smaller markets, with only two in the top 100, and none larger than South Bend, Ind., at No. 64. Both reserved and unreserved spectrum remained active in South Bend, No. 167 Harrisonburg, Pa.; and No. 378 Waynesboro, Ga., for a total of 29 active bidding areas. Of the 29 remaining in play, the price exceeded $1 million in just seven.

Over the course of Tuesday in the space of four auction rounds, demand was met in 26 areas leaving the 29 areas in play for round 42 Wednesday morning.

Bids totaled $19.5 billion ($19,497,368,002) at the end of R41, up $12.1 million from the previous round. The opening round of the auction generated $17.7 billion. Another $1 billion was added after 16 more rounds of bidding in which prices increased in 5 percent increments. Twenty-four more rounds, during which the price boost went to 10 percent increments, yielded another $827 million.

As demand and supply crept into equilibrium, the Federal Communications Commission speeded up the bidding process and began preparing for the post-auction transition. Most recently, it lifted the quiet period pertaining to broadcasters, allowing them to communicate with one another about their post-auction strategy. It also extended the comment period on its TV channel repack reporting proposal and updated the software it will use to assign channels during the process.

In a matter separate from the spectrum auction but integral to the repack, the commission also proposed a strategy for adopting ATSC 3.0, the so-called “next-gen” broadcast transmission standard, now under development at the Advanced Television Systems Committee. (See “FCC@3.0: OET-69, Public Interest, Yes; Tuner Edict, No,” Feb. 2, 2017.)

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