LiveTV and AC BidCo Winners In Air-To-Ground Spectrum Auction

The winning bidders of the FCC auction of two nationwide air-ground spectrum licenses in the 800 MHz band, which ended on June 2, are AC BidCo LLC and LiveTV LLC. AC BidCo has won the three MHz block C license with a bid of $31.3 million and LiveTV's $7 million bid has won the one MHz block D license.

AC BidCo is an affiliate of AirCell. AirCell said they plan to commercially deploy broadband service in 2007, enabling airline passengers to use their own Wi-Fi devices such as laptops and PDAs in flight.

"As we move forward and complete the official licensing process, AirCell will be accelerating its discussions with a number of airlines, and we look forward to working with them to plan for the introduction of broadband service," said AirCell President and CEO Jack Blumenstein. "AirCell has more patents and experience applying advanced wireless technology in the airborne environment than any organization in the world. With our new broadband license in hand, AirCell will revolutionize airborne communications in the United States."

LiveTV is sure to have at least one airline using its service -- it is a wholly owned subsidiary of JetBlue Airways. The LiveTV Web site shows that current satellite TV customers include, in addition to JetBlue, Frontier, Canada's WestJet and Australia's Virgin Blue. LiveTV also provides XM Satellite Radio service to AirTran.

The FCC notes that the spectrum is currently being used by Verizon Airfone. Airfone's license expires in May 2010, but Airfone must cease operations in the 3 MHz of the band corresponding to License C within two years of the grant of the new Air-Ground licenses won by the AirCell affiliate.
The FCC said that the auction does not affect the FAA and aircraft operators' rules and policies restricting the use of personal electronic devices on aircraft. It also does not affect the FCC ban on the use of cell phones on aircraft. This ban is intended to protect cell phone base stations from interference from airborne cell phones, which can "see" a large number of cell phone base stations.

For more information, visit the Auction 65 Web site.