FCC Sets 108 MHz Clearing Target

WASHINGTON—The Federal Communications Commission today set a third-stage clearing target of 108 MHz for the TV incentive spectrum auction. Bidding in the third-stage reverse auction will start Nov. 1, 2016.

“Under the band plan associated with this spectrum clearing target, 80 MHz, or eight paired blocks, of licensed spectrum will be offered in the forward auction on a near-nationwide basis.” the commission said in a Public Notice issued today, and illustrated below. The 108 MHz target places two reassignment blocks beneath Ch. 37, which is reserved for radioastronomy.

(Auction observers have told TV Technology that the next clearing target—84 MHz—would yield a more practical band plan in that Ch. 37 and its buffer spectrum would help separate broadcasting and wireless broadband frequencies, and less spectrum would have to be designated for guard bands—defined in gray hashmarks in the illustration.) In designing the auction, the commission created band plans that considered 11 potential clearing targets, from 42 to 144 MHz.

Clearing targets for each round, according to an FCC spokesman, are determined by a procedure “with objectives of maximizing the number of Category 1 licenses and minimizing overall impairments,” the FCC’s auction term for interference.“We could only “skip” a rung in the ladder if it didn’t achieve these objectives.”

The 108 MHz third-stage clearing target was set after the second-stage forward auction did not close at 114 MHz, nor the first at 126 MHz. The second-stage forward auction—where wireless companies bid to buy TV spectrum—raised $21.5 billion for 90 MHz, less than half of the $56.5 billion at which broadcasters agreed to sell 114 MHz in the second-stage reverse auction.

In the first-stage forward auction, wireless providers bid $22.5 billion for the 100 MHz yielded by the 126 MHz clearing target, falling well short of broadcasters’ $86 billion ask. (The amount of spectrum broadcasters are selling comprises the clearing target. The amount wireless providers bid on comprises the clearing target less the frequencies designated as buffer zones, or guard bands.)

For more coverage, see TV Technology’sspectrum auction silo.