A summer spectrum race is about to begin

Telcos and other nontraditional media companies looking to provide mobile television, telephony and Internet services are getting eager to see which company, or group of companies, prevails in the spectrum sweepstakes this summer. The FCC has set Aug. 9 as the date to begin auctions for the allotted airwaves, which some predict could net as much as $15 billion.

Bidders have been quiet about their specific plans, according to Reuters, citing concerns with FCC rules on collusion. However, some companies might hold off for a later auction of the airwaves that analog television broadcasters must vacate by 2009. That's because the spectrum used by stations now is of higher quality and the costs for building a network using them could be less.

Groups of potential investors are still forming and not all have yet been qualified. One formidable potential bidder is a team that includes DirecTV, EchoStar Communications and Liberty Media. Sprint Nextel and major cable operators (including Comcast and Time Warner) make up another group. A third coalition, led by Cablevision Systems’ chairman Charles Dolan, is also expected to participate.