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The FCC has set the date for the auction of 10MHz of H-block spectrum for Jan. 14, 2014. The auction will include licenses in the 1915-1920 MHz (“Lower H Block”) and 1995-2000 MHz (“Upper H Block”) bands.

“Today the Commission announced that the PCS H block auction will be held on Jan. 14, 2014, and set a reserve price of $1.56 billion,” said acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn. “I am pleased that the FCC is moving expeditiously to implement Congress’s direction to auction this spectrum, and that we are doing so in a way that ensures substantial revenues will flow to FirstNet.”

Proceeds from the H-block auction will be used as a “down payment” for FirstNet, a nationwide interoperable broadband emergency communications network. Money from the incentive auctions for broadcasters, to be scheduled later in the year, will also contribute to FirstNet. Since the H-block auction is first, the more money it generates will take the financial pressure off the later broadcast spectrum auction.

The FCC’s action drew criticism from Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who worked on the incentive auction legislation for Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.). She expressed concern that the FCC may have miscalculated by not combining the H block into a single auction with the entire 65MHz of spectrum that Congress directed be auctioned.

“... Holding a single auction of all 65MHz at once is bound to yield more interest, more bidders and more revenue than dividing this spectrum up and holding an auction of the 10MHz H block alone,” Rosenworcel said.

“As Wall Street analysts have noted, splitting this spectrum up for auction will likely limit interest in the H block to only one, or possibly two bidders. If that is true, we will have a retail sale — not an auction. Moreover, it will mean reduced revenue from this spectrum — and less support for our nation’s first responders.”