After 139 rounds, the FCC suspended bidding last Wednesday in its ongoing, record-breaking auction of Advanced Wireless Service (AWS)-3 licenses that, to date, has garnered total provisional winning bids of more than $44.5 billion.  

The auction is currently on holiday hiatus, and bidding is scheduled to resume on January 5.  During the most recent round, the FCC received just seventeen new bids that advanced total auction proceeds by $44 million or by a mere 0.1% over the previous day’s activity.  To spur the languid bid pace, the FCC is now implementing Stage 3 rules that mandate eight rounds per day and require participants to maintain activity on at least 98% of their qualified spectrum in each round to avoid having their bid eligibility reduced.  

While the identity of specific bidders and their licenses will not be disclosed until the auction ends, much of the current activity appears to be centered on small rural or regional markets.  Activity has all but ceased for the large metropolitan markets, many of which have not received new bids for more than 30 rounds.  The 10x10 MHz J-block license for New York City holds the largest price tag for the auction thus far, boasting a posted bid in excess of $2.7 billion, and analysts say that licenses in the top markets of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are selling at an estimated price of $4.29 per MHz/POP.  The auction will end when the FCC receives no further bids for any licenses, and observers now believe that bidding could continue throughout January.