Broadcasters will once again set the minimum bid price that wireless carriers must pay to access surrendered television channels in the 600 MHz band with the commencement of stage three of the incentive auction on November 1.  Announcing the start date of the reverse auction in a public notice issued Tuesday, the FCC confirmed a 108 MHz clearing target which would leave the wireless industry with access to a net spectrum allotment of 80 MHz during the third stage of the forward auction.

During stage two of the forward auction, wireless bidders were provided with access to a gross spectrum allotment of 114 MHz (90 MHz net) for which broadcasters had set a clearing cost of $55 billion, but total bids posted during a single round of activity reached only as high as $22 billion.  Anticipating multiple auction stages from the outset, the FCC set progressively lower spectrum targets (the next target being 84 MHz) which will be implemented until the incentive auction reaches an equilibrium point between the price set by broadcasters and the payment offered by the wireless industry.  Tuesday’s public notice also specifies that license blocks to be offered in the forward auction under the stage three band plan “will consist of a total of 3,301 Category 1 blocks (zero to 15 percent impairment) and a total of two Category 2 blocks (greater than 15 percent and up to 50 percent impairment).”  Among the Category 1 blocks, the FCC maintained that “99.9% will be zero percent impaired.” 

One round of reverse auction bidding will take place on November 1.  Between November 2 and November 4, stage three of the reverse auction will progress to two rounds per day and then to three daily rounds starting on November 7.  Because the first two stages of the reverse auction each lasted about a month, observers anticipate that the third stage of the forward auction will begin in early December.