Next stage of FCC wireless auction set for March

Next stage of FCC wireless auction set for March
© Greg Nash

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will kick off the next stage of its auction of wireless spectrum on March 6, the agency announced in a notice posted online Tuesday.

In the so-called assignment phase, winning bidders from earlier rounds will now bid on specific frequencies.

The short delay before beginning the auction will allow the agency to run practice sessions later this month so that bidders can familiarize themselves with the process.

The FCC said it is aiming to wrap up the auction stage on March 30.

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It's the latest step in the FCC's first-ever auction of wireless spectrum, which saw the agency purchase unused airwaves from television broadcasters and sell them to meet demand from wireless providers whose customers are using greater amounts of data.

In the first stage, which ended in mid-January, the FCC purchased $10 billion worth of spectrum from broadcasters.

In the second phase, the FCC offered those airwaves to wireless providers. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai on Friday announced the results from that phase, with bids totaling $19.6 billion.

That figure was seen as falling well below expectations. Some analysts believed broadcasters would get as much as $30 billion, according to Reuters.

Pai, though, has touted the spectrum auction begun under his predecessor, Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

"These low-band airwaves will improve wireless coverage across the country and will play a particularly important role in deploying mobile broadband services in rural areas," he said Friday.