The Federal Communications Commission last night released the official list of prospective bidders in the upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction. We've already speculated on who might bid, and now we know for sure.It's quite a list—more than 200 companies submitted the required short-form applications, showing just how strong interest is in the new spectrum, especially among regional players.
The FCC has received 266 applications, but only 96 of them have been "accepted for filing." The remaining 170 are in some way incomplete; companies have until January 4, 2008, to correct any deficiencies in the application and to make upfront payments.
Google Airwaves, LLC is listed as an applicant; so are AT&T, Verizon, Cox, and Frontline Wireless. Vulcan Spectrum is also on the list, indicating that Microsoft cofounder (and current owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers) Paul Allen has plans to bid on some spectrum as well. Sprint and T-Mobile do not appear to have filed applications.
But the real action ishappening at the local and regional level. One of the FCC's goals with the auction was to increase competition by making it easy for regional providers to get access to small chunks of prime spectrum, and judging from the initial interest, that may happen. Most of the listed bidders are small outfits with names like West Wisconsin Telecom Cooperative and Washington County Rural Telephone Cooperative. Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative is an applicant, too, as is the Red River Rural Telephone Association.
Most of the press coverage of the auction has focused on the C block of licenses that could grant a national 700MHz footprint, or the D block license that will create private/public partnership for public safety communications. But most of the players in the auction appear interested in the other blocks, which offer hundreds of small licenses and could make it feasible for rural co-ops, especially, to offer wireless Internet service.
A mock auction takes place on January 22, 2008, with the real auction to start two days later. Applicants can bid by phone or over the Internet, in which case they will need to use Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator (seriously) to place bids. While the 700MHz auction may help to bring wireless Internet services to everyone, don't plan on bidding for the spectrum from a Mac; it is explicitly unsupported.