This morning, the FCC released a Public Notice, announcing that the spectrum clearing target for the initial stage of the Incentive Auction will be 126 MHz. That means, that if the Incentive Auction is completed in the initial stage with the 126 MHz spectrum clearing target, TV channels 30-36 and 38-51 will be reallocated for mobile broadband and unlicensed wireless services, leaving UHF channels 14-29 for broadcast TV stations (along with VHF channels 2-13 which are not being auctioned). Channel 37 will remain allocated for wireless medical telemetry and radioastronomy services, with unlicensed services permitted. This is the maximum amount of spectrum that the FCC had initially indicated that it would potentially reclaim from broadcasters.
The Public Notice also announces that the actual bidding in the reverse auction, the so-called “clock rounds,” will begin on May 31, 2016. The initial two days of the auction will have one round per day, with subsequent days speeding up to have at least two rounds per day until further notice from the FCC’s Wireless Bureau which administers the auction.
The FCC also set out a number of educational efforts for parties participating in the auction, including a user’s guide that will be available May 5, tutorials and workshops on the bidding process, and mock auction dates that will precede the actual start of the “clock rounds.”
Finally, the Public Notice announces that the FCC will be sending today the Final Confidential Status Letter to inform each applicant that was permitted to make an initial commitment in the Reverse Auction of its status with respect to the clock phase of the Reverse Auction. In other words, this tells stations that accepted the FCC’s initial offers whether their stations may be needed in the auction. The FCC warns that stations that don’t receive this notice by Wednesday, May 4, should call the FCC to alert the FCC of issues with their distribution of this notice, as it contains information that will be needed to participate in the Mock Auctions, and in the clock rounds of the auction itself. Note that the anti-collusion rules apply until the end of the auction even for those applicants who are told that their stations are not needed in the auction (see our article on those restrictions here).
It has been a long road to this point, but it looks like the auction is for real now. TV stations that were interested in participating should now be hyper-alert to all news about the auction, as it is for real at this point!