A subsidiary of the Dish Network Corp., American H Block Wireless, LLC, has won all the licenses in the FCC’s Auction 96. The operation now has licenses nationwide for H Block spectrum at 1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz.
The Block Wireless subsidiary paid $1,564,000,000 for the licenses, and while this may seem like a large amount, when examined on a per-market basis, the amount paid for 10 MHz of duplex spectrum works out to be just under $217 million for the New York City/Long Island, N.Y/N.J./Conn./Pa./Mass./Vt. license and just under $167 million for the "Los Angeles/Riverside and Orange County, Calif./Ariz. license.
What does this mean for the UHF TV Incentive Auction?
Dish had a big incentive for gaining this spectrum, as it is adjacent to MSS spectrum in the 2 GHz band that the company had acquired in previous deals. Looking at the amount of money Dish paid, and realizing that the amount of money the FCC would pay broadcasters for spectrum would be what's left after making a contribution to the public safety network and reimbursing stations that didn't participate in the Incentive Auction for the cost of moving to another channel, plus some profit for the U.S. Treasury, it seems the value of the 600 MHz spectrum is unlikely to be enough to make more than a few cash strapped stations give up spectrum in major markets.
Does this mean the Incentive Auction is doomed? Will the bids be insufficient to secure enough bandwidth in major markets for uplink/downlink spectrum and guard bands?
Not necessarily. Available channels in major markets are limited by the need to avoid interference to smaller surrounding markets. If the reverse option provides enough incentive for smaller stations in surrounding markets to give up their spectrum, it could open up more spectrum in the major markets. That may not work, however, where you have major markets that are close to each other, for example: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Hartford and Boston.
When looking at the spectrum Dish has put together, some interesting possibilities arise. Offering LTE-Advanced broadcast is certainly one of them, as Dish has 6 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum it originally considered using for an ATSC-MH based mobile DTV service, but would work perfectly for LTE-broadcast. Dish also has 2 GHz spectrum that could be used for downlink only or for TDD LTE.
Neal Gompa, in his article Dish secures spectrum for 150Mbps LTE wireless broadband to rural homes in the US on ExtremeTech.com outlines Dish's options.
The complete list of H Block licenses that Dish acquired and the price paid can be found inAttachment A of the FCC Public Notice Auction of H Block Licenses in the 1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz bands closes.
Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.
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