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Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility on top in 700 MHz auction results: Google leaves event empty-handed

Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility won the vast majority of the 700 MHz spectrum up for grabs during the Federal Communications Commission’s recently completed auction. Verizon Wireless was the event’s biggest spender, doling out $9.63 billion (fully half of the almost $20 billion in total bids) and winning all of the open-access, C-Block licenses covering the continental United States.
Click here for complete 700 MHz auction coverage.
Verizon Wireless’ winnings covered seven of the 10 regional C-Block licenses, as well as 77 licenses in the B block and 25 licenses in the A block. Click here to download a high-resolution map of all A Block winners. The stock of the carrier’s parent company, Verizon Communications Inc., was up slightly at $36 per share on the news.
The news comes as no surprise; Verizon Wireless announced last year its plans to open up its network to all devices and applications that meet what the carrier described as minimum technical requirements. The FCC set such open-access stipulations on the C Block.
As for the remaining C-Block licenses, Triad 700 took the Alaska and Puerto Rico/US Virgin Islands licenses and Small Ventures took the Gulf of Mexico license. Click here to download a high-resolution map of all C Block winners.
For its part, AT&T spent $6.64 billion for 227 B-Block licenses. Click here to download a high-resolution map of all B Block winners. Together, AT&T and Verizon spent $16.3 billion on 700 MHz licenses, making up the lion’s share of the total $19.592 billon collected by the U.S. Treasury during the 38-day auction, which ended Tuesday.
Of the 214 applicants approved to bid in the FCC’s auction, 101 walked away with spectrum. However, many of those winners scored only a handful of licenses.
Interestingly, Google Inc. walked away with no 700 MHz licenses, despite the company’s concerted push for open-access provisions — to which the FCC acquiesced with the C Block — before the start of the auction.
Other noteworthy items:

  • EchoStar won 168 licenses, all in the E Block, for a total of $711 million. However, the unpaired E-Block spectrum is suited for broadcasting services rather than communications. Click here to download a high-resolution map of all E Block winners.
  • Qualcomm placed the sole bid on the D Block during the auction’s first round, but apparently opted to let it sit thereafter. Qualcomm didn’t come out empty-handed, however; the company won nine licenses for a total of around $500 million: B-Block licenses covering Yuba City and Imperial, Calif., and Hunterdon, N.J.; and five E Block licenses. “Qualcomm also had bidding agreements with both AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which suggests that a joint venture may be on the horizon,” wrote Medley Global Advisors L.L.C.
  • Leap and Alltel Corp. walked away with nothing, while MetroPCS scored only one license, the A Block for Boston, for $313 million.
  • Chevron walked away with the A, B and E Blocks covering the Gulf of Mexico, most likely for the company’s oil operations there.
  • Cavalier Wireless won $61.8 million across the B and A Blocks.
  • Cox won $304 million in the A and B blocks.
  • U.S. Cellular (bidding as King Street Wireless) won 152 licenses for $401 million in A- and B-Block licenses.
  • CenturyTel spent close to $150 million for 48 B-Block licenses and 21 A-Block licenses.
  • Vulcan Ventures, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, won two licenses, in the Seattle/Tacoma and Portland/Salem markets, for $112 million.
  • Cellular South won $191.5 million in A- and B-Block licenses.
    “The FCC’s rules require winning bidders for CMA (B block) and EA (A and B block) licenses, to build-out service and offer signal coverage to 35% of their geographic license area within four years from the end of the DTV transition (four years from Feb. 2009), and 70% of the license area by the end of the license term, which is 10 years in length,” wrote Medley Global Advisors. “For larger license areas in the C block (REAGs) a population-based build-out requirement is applied and must provide signal coverage to 40% of the population of each EA in its license area within four years of the license term; and at least 75% of the population of each EA in its license area by the end of the license term.”
    A success
    FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said the auction was successful in terms of raising money, promoting open networks and attracting new blood into the wireless space. Although no new nationwide wireless players emerged, as some had hoped, Martin said that there was at least one new face scoring spectrum in most of the nation’s major markets.
    As for the D Block, which received one bid from Qualcomm but did not pass its $1.3 billion reserve price, the FCC said it has decided “not to immediately re-offer D-Block licenses” and will “consider additional options for that spectrum.”
    The FCC also noted that its “anti-collusion rules” are still in effect, which essentially prohibits 700 MHz auction winners from discussing their plans for the spectrum. The FCC said it must first issue a public notice closing the auction, and 10 days later the rules will lift and winners can discuss their plans.
    As the industry processes the winnings, players on all sides — from handset makers to infrastructure providers — must now kick into high gear to supply the winners’ hardware needs.

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