Competitive bidding for wireless broadband licenses in the 700 MHz band will begin on January 16, 2008, according to a public notice issued by the FCC last Friday that also seeks comment on procedures to be used during the long-awaited auction. The announcement follows the adoption of rules last month that govern wireless operations on 700 MHz channels to be reclaimed from analog TV broadcasters as part of the digital television transition. A total of 1099 licenses will be made available to prospective bidders and will be allocated as follows: (1) Block A, to consist of 176 economic area (EA) licenses of 12 MHz each, (2) Block B, to encompass 734 cellular market areas, (3) Block C, to include 12 regional economic area groupings, (4) a single nationwide license in Block D, and (5) 176 EA licenses (6 MHz each) in Block E. As specified in the FCC’s 700 MHz order, license winners in Block C will be subject to Carterfone-style open access rules that would allow subscribers to use handsets and applications of their choice as long as the subscriber’s equipment causes no harm to network operations. The Block D licensee, meanwhile, will be required to enter a partnership with the adjacent public safety licensee on the development of a nationwide interoperable broadband network to be shared by commercial and public safety entities. The auction will feature sequential bidding rounds, with the schedule to be established at least one week prior to the start of the auction. Comment is sought on a proposed anonymous bidding procedure, in which the FCC would withhold bidders’ short-form license selections, upfront payments, and bidding eligibility until the conclusion of the auction. Among other things, the agency is also seeking input on block-specific reserve prices, ranging from a low of $904 million for Block E to a high of $4.64 billion for Block C. In the event reserve prices for any one block or blocks are not met, the FCC proposes to reauction the affected licenses in a prompt manner. The comment deadline is August 31.