Three of the top four national wireless carriers are listed alongside DISH Network, Comcast, United States Cellular Corp., NTT DoCoMo of Japan, and 54 other entities that the FCC has deemed qualified to bid in the forward phase of the incentive auction, which is scheduled to begin on August 16. Sprint is the only carrier among the four national wireless operators that is not bidding in the forward auction. (Citing its collection of wireless licenses in the 2.5 GHz band, Sprint announced last year that it had sufficient spectrum to satisfy its needs and would therefore not participate.)
Two weeks after receiving upfront auction payments, the FCC announced the forward auction start date and issued its final list of qualified bidders last Friday. Previously, the FCC had classified the applications of 99 prospective forward auction bidders as “complete,” and those applicants were required to submit upfront payments by July 1 to retain their eligibility to participate in the auction. Ultimately, the FCC certified 62bidders as qualified, out of which twenty have been classified as small businesses that qualify for bidding credits of either 15% or 25%, subject to certain caps and depending upon their average gross revenues for the preceding three years. Twenty eight bidders have been deemed eligible for a bidding credit of 15% under the category of “rural service providers.”
To satisfy the spectrum clearing target of $86.4 billion set by broadcasters during the reverse phase of the incentive auction, the forward auction will have to generate total revenues in excess of $88 billion. Total bids in that amount would also free up the maximum number of 600 MHz channels for use by the wireless industry ( i.e. , 126 MHz, out of which 100 MHz would be licensed to carriers and the remaining 26 MHz designated for unlicensed use.) Before the start of the forward auction on August 16, qualified bidders will have the opportunity to test the waters through a practice auction on July 25 and a mock auction to be held on August 11-12.