Analog-TV spectrum tally at $3.7 bil

Bidding to resume Monday

After two days and four rounds of bidding on the analog-television broadcast spectrum, the tally stood at $3.7 billion, slightly more than a third of the $10 billion minimum that the Federal Communications Commission needs to raise with the auction.

Bidding will resume today {mon. jan 28}.

Last Thursday, the FCC opened for auction the so 700mhz spectrum, currently occupied by analog broadcast TV. However, following the switch to all-digital TV in February 2009, the spectrum will be available largely for wireless networks. The bidding is anonymous but companies such as Google, AT&T and Cox Communications are involved, as are nearly 1,000 other bidders of mostly small- to medium-sized companies.

The FCC hopes the auction will lead to greater wireless broadband Internet access and service. Some portions of the spectrum are designated to be used for emergency-responder communications.

When round four of bidding closed on Friday afternoon, the FCC reported a total of $3.707 billion in bids. That number was more than $500 million above the closing tally for round three.

The so-called C block or chunk of spectrum – which could constitute a nationwide network – has drawn the highest individual bid, $1.793 billion.

The auction is expected to continue for a number of weeks, and observers believe it should bring in at least the minimum $10 billion, probably more. Regulators and administration officials are counting on the money to help pay for the DTV-converter-box program and some of the emergency-responder communications systems as well as be applied to reducing the federal deficit.