The 700 MHz filing deadline: What's next?

Companies line up to bid at Jan. 24 auction on valuable spectrum waves

WASHINGTON -- Companies that want to bid in the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's upcoming 700-MHz auctions were largely silent about their plans today, the deadline for submitting bid applications.

Google Inc. on Friday said it plans to bid on the spectrum, often called "beach front" property because it can carry wireless broadband signals three to four times farther than some other spectrum bands. An AT&T Inc. spokesman today confirmed the company's earlier statements that it also intends to bid.

A Verizon Wireless spokeswoman declined to comment on the company's bidding plans. Verizon had filed a lawsuit against the FCC in September for its so-called open-access requirements on about a third of the 62 MHz of spectrum to be auctioned starting in late January. But last week the company announced that it would open up its network to outside wireless devices and applications starting in 2008. So Verizon's objections to the FCC's similar open-access rules seem to have subsided.

Sprint Nextel Corp. does not plan to participate, according to a spokesman. "Sprint has all the spectrum it needs to meet its strategic business needs," spokesman Scott Sloat said.

Start-up Frontline Wireless, made up of wireless industry and government veterans, has also indicated that it plans to bid in the auctions. There could be dozens of other bidders, including regional wireless carriers and broadband providers.

What happens now?

The FCC plans to make the names of the auction applicants public by Dec. 28. For one of the first times, the FCC is conducting an anonymous bidding process, so it will not disclose what sections of spectrum applicants intend to bid on.

The auctions begin on Jan. 24, but they could last several weeks. Such auctions go on as long as the bidders keep bidding; the FCC's last major auctions, its advanced wireless services auctions in 2006, lasted about five weeks. If reserve prices aren't met on portions of spectrum, the FCC will reauction those bands.

The auction is conducted electronically with numerous rounds per day, with time frames for rounds growing shorter as bidding activity heats up.

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