Back To Square Auctions

AT&T and Verizon trembling, Vodafone sweating, Cox, Cablevision Systems Corporation and EchoStar waiting, Qualcomm peeping, Google smiling... and the FCC counting the billions...

... Welcome to the 2008 700 MHz wireless spectrum. A few blocks up for grabs*, 214 potential bidders, and no winner will be known before the end of the whole process.

Some losers have already made the headlines, or rather the frontline of an obscure web page : "01.12.08 Frontline Wireless statement - Frontline Wireless is closed for business at this time. We have no further comment." Which means Frontline Wireless is already out of the race, and out of business without having ever been in.

This is a wild race and a wild world. We are talking wide and deep coverage : this spectrum will help go through large areas, through walls. The FCC even proposes a "Tribal Land bidding credit" for someone who would care for uncovered reserves. How generous from an organization that optimizes the chances of a 2000-2001 redux.

We're talking CLEC of the wireless kind, FMC and the whole shebang. We're talking about scared incumbents in the mobile as well as in the fixed areas.

Back then, T-Mobile would add a few rounds in the German auctions - totally unnecessary, except for the government. I guess they wish they had that money right now.

Chances are the biggest winners won't get one bit of spectrum at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, France is discounting the entry ticket for its fourth 3G license.

* 1,099 licenses overall - Block A : 176 EA (Economic Area) licenses - Block B : 734 CMA (Cellular Market Area) license - Block C : 12 REAG (Regional EA Grouping) - Block D : 1 national license for public / private partnership - Block C : 176 EA (minimum bidding price : USD 4.6 bn). The 698-806 MHz band was freed by TV broadcasters switching to DTV.

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