FCC sets high target for airwaves sale

FCC sets high target for airwaves sale
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The Federal Communications Commission announced on Friday that it would try to move the maximum amount of wireless spectrum in an upcoming auction, indicating strong interest from television stations that are selling their wireless licenses.

Officials at the agency are currently running a never-before-tried sale, where it will buy spectrum — the frequencies that carry wireless signals — from broadcasters and then resell them to wireless carriers and other buyers.

A major question heading into the auction has been whether the FCC could generate enough interest from broadcasters for the sale to work. Stations will be able to go off the air entirely, share spectrum with others or move to a different band of spectrum.

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The announcement on Friday suggests the FCC's work is paying off. The agency said it would initially attempt to free up 126 megahertz with the auction, the maximum possible figure. The agency has not disclosed how many broadcasters are committed to participating in the initial part of the auction.

“Robust broadcaster participation is key to the success of the Incentive Auction,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a statement. “Today’s announcement reflects the voluntary decision by many broadcasters that this auction truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

He said that broadcasters had “stepped up and done their part to fulfill” the high demand for spectrum from wireless carriers.

The commission says it will attempt to auction off 100 megahertz worth of spectrum licenses, with the additional 26 megahertz coming from blocks of spectrum that are kept open to avoid interference.

The agency also said that the reverse portion of the auction, which is the period involving broadcasters, would start on May 31.

The complicated auction is being closely watched in the telecom space because wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T say they need more spectrum to meet demand caused by the proliferation of smartphones and the rise of streaming video.

In a statement, the CEO of wireless trade association CTIA said that the group was "encouraged" by the FCC's announcement.