On Tuesday the FCC announced plans to auction H Block paired spectrum at 1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz stating, “The staff will be prepared to conduct this Auction, which will be designated Auction 96, by or as early as Jan. 14, 2014.” The Spectrum Act requires the FCC allocate this spectrum for commercial use and license spectrum in the H Block using a system of competitive bidding no later than Feb. 23, 2015.
The licenses will be auctioned on an “Economic Areas” (EA) basis in all areas, including the Gulf of Mexico. The Public Notice (DA 13-1540) announcing the auction requested comment on auction procedures. These include procedures for packaging EA licenses into larger packages covering regions or even the contiguous 48 states.
The Public Notice includes a “Due Diligence” section outlining risks. It notes: “Each potential bidder is solely responsible for investigating and evaluating all technical and marketplace factors that may have a bearing on the value of the licenses that it is seeking in this auction. Each bidder is responsible for assuring that, if it wins a license, it will be able to build and operate facilities in accordance with the Commission’s rules.
“The Commission makes no representations or warranties about the use of this spectrum for particular services. Each applicant should be aware that a Commission auction represents an opportunity to become a Commission licensee, subject to certain conditions and regulations. A Commission auction does not constitute an endorsement by the Commission of any particular service, technology, or product, nor does a Commission license constitute a guarantee of business success.”
While the auction and use of this spectrum should have little impact on 2 GHz broadcast auxiliary spectrum (BAS) (see FCC Allocates 2 GHz Spectrum Chunk to Wireless Broadband), it may provide an indication of how much wireless companies are willing to pay for spectrum in the upcoming incentive UHF TV spectrum auction, and thus indirectly impact the amount of UHF TV spectrum that ultimately ends up being reallocated. If Auction 96 attracts wide interest and high bids, you can expect to see more pressure on the FCC to take additional spectrum from the 2 GHz BAS band.
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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