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800 MHz Air-Ground Radiotelephone Auction Date Set, Minimum Bids Proposed

The FCC has set May 10 as the date for auctioning 800 MHz spectrum for air-ground communications. The FCC auction notice (DA-06-3) also outlined the rules for the auction, listed band-plan options and proposed an upfront payment amount of $100,000. The FCC proposed a minimum opening bid of $1.5 million for band plans A and B, which would give each licensee 2 MHz of shared spectrum; $2.8 million for plans C and F, which are for 3 MHz of spectrum; and $200,000 for plans D and E, which provide 1 MHz of spectrum. The FCC proposed a published reserve price of $5 million for the entire spectrum. The FCC plans to total the top bids for each band plan, and adopt the band plan with the highest total.

As outlined in a previous RF Report, Verizon Airfone, the only operator currently providing air-ground telephone and data services, will be allowed to keep 1 MHz of the 4 MHz of spectrum it currently holds after the auction, whether or not it bids on additional spectrum in the auction. Verizon will be given two years after the grant of a new license in the band to transition its base stations and subscribers from 4 MHz to 1 MHz. New licensees may provide any type of air-ground service -- voice telephony, broadband Internet, data, etc. -- to aircraft of any type and serve any or all aviation markets. They must provide service to aircraft and will not be allowed to provide ancillary land-mobile or fixed services in the 800 MHz air-ground spectrum.

For additional information, including how to file comments on the auction procedures, see the FCC auction notice (DA-06-3). The FCC's Auction 65 web page has links to the band plans, and after the auction has started, will provide a listing of the results of the bidding.