Wireless group wants more mock auctions before spectrum sale


A wireless group is asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to give bidders in an upcoming high-profile auction of wireless airwaves more chances to try out the software that will be used during the sale.

The auction of spectrum, the airwaves that carry signals to and from wireless devices, is the first in history where the FCC will buy spectrum from television broadcasters and then sell it to wireless carriers. Wireless trade group CTIA said in a Monday letter that auction participants should be able to familiarize themselves with the software and data that will be used during the bidding.

{mosads}“As this auction is a ‘first of its kind’ auction, the Commission should provide parties with an opportunity to test the underlying software and supply relevant samples of the types of data (and the file data structure associated with the data) that would be expected to be delivered to forward auction participants,” the group’s Vice President for Regulatory Affairs Scott K. Bergmann said in the letter.

Under CTIA’s proposal, the FCC would hold multiple mock auctions instead of the single one that is currently planned. The first would be held two months before the auction and include anyone who had submitted an application to participate in the March sale. If significant changes were made as a result of the first mock auction, the commission would then hold a second one a month before the actual bidding begins. The final mock auction would occur as planned for applicants that have been approved to participate.

“CTIA believes that this approach of conducting multiple mock auctions will provide potential bidders the assurances needed that the software and data is accurate and understandable,” Bergmann said.

The wireless group also asked the FCC to release information on the types of data that will be given to wireless providers during the auction.

An FCC official said that the agency was reviewing the letter. In a blog post last month, the leaders of the task force planning the auction said that they would hold several training events for possible bidders in the auction to familiarize them with the sale’s procedures.

March’s auction will be closely watched to see if the new procedures are successful and as an indicator of the demand for spectrum. Spectrum is viewed as a crucial resource because of the popularity of data-hungry smartphones and the growing use of connected devices. An auction that closed this year brought in $44.9 billion.

It remains to be seen whether FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler can convince broadcasters and wireless providers to participate in the auction. He has called the auction a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for television stations.

Last month, the FCC approved the bidding procedures for the auction, which is currently scheduled to begin on March 29, 2016. The commission is expected to continue preparing for the event in the coming months.

Lawmakers are also taking an interest in freeing up more spectrum for private use. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) is currently holding a series of hearings on wireless broadband and has said he hopes to introduce legislation on the topic after they are finished. 

Tags CTIA-The Wireless Association FCC Federal Communications Commission incentive auction John Thune wireless spectrum

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