Verizon, AT&T Big Winners in Spectrum Auction

Verizon and AT&T emerged from the 700 MHz auction with licenses that will give them each new nationwide footprints, almost, in what could be a new generation of services on spectrum surrendered by TV broadcasters as part of the digital transition.

Verizon won all six of the CONUS (Continental United States) slices of the C Block, plus the license for Hawaii (but not Alaska). AT&T won 227 of 734 licenses in the B Block, giving it a new national platform as well.

Frontier Wireless, a venture tied to EchoStar, won almost enough licenses in the E Block for a national footprint.

The biggest losers may have been the advocates of a public-private public safety partnership for the D Block. No bidders met the minimum demand for this spectrum. Public safety and private groups supporting the idea had envisioned a board of public safety officials to set specifications for the block, so that it could carry a top-flight commercial network that could also serve public safety needs when called upon.

Not only did the block bring no bidders, but FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin said he asked the FCC inspector general to investigate improprieties in the auction process.

Martin said he remained committed to a public safety partnership for the D Block, and predicted a re-auction before the end of the year.

Overall, Martin said the auction represented an extended opportunity for new entrants in the wireless marketplace. Other than the nationwide incumbents, 99 bidders won 754 licenses (69 percent of the 1,090 sold), and at least one bidder other than an incumbent won a license in every market, he said.

The auction raised nearly $19.6 billion, some of which will pay for DTV transition costs such as the $1.5 billion program for coupons for over-the-air DTV converter boxes for consumers.

Read more about the auction and Doug Lung’s analysis of the value of spectrum in RF Report.