FCC Sets Auction Dates for Broadcast, DBS Spectrum

The FCC has set May 28 as the date for the final auction of spectrum in TV Channels 52-59.

The channels are the portion of broadcasters' analog spectrum to be relinquished to the federal government as part of the plan to transition stations to digital. The May auction will cover frequencies for Channels 52, 53 and 56-58, as well as 256 unsold licenses from the commission's Sept. 2002 auction. Those licenses--part of the C and D blocks of the 700 MHz spectrum--occupy Channels 54, 55 and 59.

Broadcasters are not obligated to give up the channels immediately, however. They may occupy them at least until 2006 or have the option of negotiating early buy-out deals.

In other auction news, the commission also announced that it will auction off 98 new satellite TV channels on Aug. 6, 2003.

Most of the channels are slated for the western part of the U.S. and Alaska and Hawaii and Asia and Australia. Ninety-six of the unassigned channels for the west reside in the 175 degree, 166 degree, 157 degree slots and two eastern channels are in the 61.5 orbital slot.

Minimum opening bids for the 32 channels at 157 degrees are set at $6.4 million, or $200,000 per channel. Minimum opening bids for 32 channels at 175 and 166 degrees are $1.6 million or $50,000 per channel and the minimum bid for the two eastern channels, which have full U.S. continental coverage, are set at $1.6 million or $800,000 per channel.

In a related development, the FCC also announced that it had dismissed a petition from Northpoint Technology to launch its Compass satellite wireless system, telling the company that its application was "premature" and that it would have to participate in auctions for the spectrum.