Yesterday, the FCC published its highly-anticipated public notice announcing the results of the reverse and forward phases of the incentive auction. The FCC’s notice also triggers the start of the 39-month period during which television broadcasters must transition to new channel assignments to accommodate new wireless broadband operations in the 600 MHz band. Among the fifty entities that won licenses in the forward auction, T-Mobile US and DISH Network emerged as the top bidders, accounting together for more than $14 billion of the auction’s net $19.8 billion in proceeds.
T-Mobile US, the first place finisher in the forward auction, spent nearly $8 billion for 1,525 licenses covering 414 of the auction’s 428 partial economic areas (PEAs). Bidding under the name of “ParkerB.com Wireless,” DISH Network finished in second place with $6.2 billion in winning bids for 486 licenses covering 416 PEAs. Comcast, which launched mobile virtual network services last week through an agreement with Verizon Wireless, picked up 73 licenses in 72 PEAs for $1.7 billion. (Although Verizon registered to participate in the forward auction, the company did not post any winning bids.) Other top bidders in the forward auction include: (1) AT&T, which spent $910 million for 23 licenses in 18 PEAs, (2) Channel 51, a Columbia Capital-backed entity which posted total net bids of $859 million for eight licenses in five PEAs, and (3) US Cellular, which acquired 188 licenses in 92 PEAs for $329 million.
On the broadcast side, 175 TV stations won payouts during the reverse auction for electing to relinquish their spectrum. Chicago’s WWTO-TV, owned by Trinity Broadcasting, will receive the largest commercial station payout of $304 million. In all, three dozen stations will receive payouts of approximately $100 million each, and the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority will receive the largest payout ($193.8 million) for a non-commercial station (WNJN, New York). In all, participating broadcasters will receive more than $10 billion in auction proceeds. Among the 175 winning broadcast stations, 133 plan to stay in business by striking spectrum sharing deals with other broadcasters, and 30 others will receive funds for moving their operations to lower channels.
By April 27, forward auction winners must submit their license applications to the FCC along with down payments representing 20% of their net winning bids. Final auction payments are due on May 11. The FCC also announced new channel assignments for the 957 broadcast stations that will remain on the air, and the effective dates of those assignments under the 39-month transition plan. Under that plan, the first group of broadcast licensees must clear their current channels for wireless industry use by November 30, 2018. As he congratulated “all bidders who were successful in the incentive auction,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai emphasized: “it’s now imperative that we move forward with equal zeal to ensure a successful post-auction transition.”