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FCC Sets Opening Bid Prices for Next Year's Spectrum Auction

TV broadcasters will have to decide by December whether they want to offer up their airwaves in exchange for a cut of the proceeds.

Super Mobility Week/CTIA

The Federal Communications Commission on Friday said it has set the opening bid prices for next year’s spectrum auction.

Now it is up to TV broadcasters to decide whether — and how much — of their airwaves they want to give up in exchange for a cut of the auction proceeds. The auction, which the FCC will run, is seen as one of the biggest opportunities for mobile carriers to boost their spectrum holdings.

Because this is a reverse auction, the opening bid price represents the maximum price that the broadcasters will receive for their spectrum.

Spectrum is the portion of the airwaves that companies like AT&T and Verizon need to wirelessly send data. More spectrum allows for faster speeds and more devices to connect.

Sprint has already said it will sit out the auctions, and AT&T Mobility CEO Glenn Lurie threw cold water on the notion that the auction will generate as much as the $60 billion some have estimated.

On the other hand, T-Mobile has indicated it will be an aggressive bidder; the auction could also draw interest from new entrants seeking to get into the U.S. wireless market.

The FCC chairman called the setting of the bid prices “a watershed moment.”

“For all practical purposes, we’ve fired the starting gun,” Wheeler said in a statement. “The release of final opening bid prices — combined with the detailed application procedures and other data released yesterday — provides broadcasters with all of the information they need to decide whether to apply to participate in the auction.”

Stations have until Dec. 18 to decide whether to participate.

Correction: The initial version of this story referred to the opening bid as the minimum price the broadcaster will receive, however the auction is being done as a reverse auction, so the opening bid actually refers to the maximum price broadcasters will get for their spectrum.

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