FCC starts bidding in second part of wireless auction

FCC starts bidding in second part of wireless auction

Bidding began among mobile carriers and other buyers in a historic auction for wireless spectrum on Tuesday, launching the second phase of the sale.

Broadcast stations previously agreed to give up spectrum, the radio frequencies that carry wireless data, in exchange for a payout from the Federal Communications Commission. The agency will now repackage and sell those frequencies to buyers in the second portion of the auction.

The bidders — wireless carriers AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile among them — will now have a chance to buy the spectrum in a traditional auction where the highest bidder takes the license to use the airwaves.

Bidding began at 10:00 a.m. and will continue until 4:00 p.m. It is scheduled to continue throughout the week — and officials have not set an end date.

“Unlike the reverse auction, in which there is a limited number of possible rounds, forward auction bidding rounds for a stage can continue without limit so long as demand outpaces supply for any product,” said two FCC staffers leading the auction in a blog post last week. “As such, we cannot predict when the forward auction will conclude.”

The auction’s methodology is being used for the first time in an attempt to give more space on the airwaves to consumers using data-hungry smartphones. Some have warned for years warned of a crunch where demand for spectrum would outpace supply.

The spectrum being auctioned off is of particularly high quality for use by mobile devices.

It remains to be seen, however, if the wireless providers and other buyers will pony up for the $86.4 billion in spectrum provided by the broadcasters. If they don’t, the commission will have to redo the process while attempting to sell a smaller amount of spectrum.

The agency set the highest possible target for the sale, in terms of the amount of spectrum sold, earlier this year.