Mobile, Dish bid $14 billion in U.S. airwaves auction: FCC

Consumers could see more competition and better mobile service after the end of a big USA government auction transferring airwave rights from TV broadcasters to companies interested in wireless networks.

The two carriers accounted for more than two-thirds of $19.8 billion in winning bids, the FCC said. (NYSE: S) had already said it had enough spectrum and wouldn't participate. The auction results news comes just a week or so after Comcast announced wireless service based on a "Wi-Fi first" approach that will fall back on the Verizon network when Wi-Fi isn't available. "We think the rationale was to build a complete spectrum portfolio, with significant holdings in both mid and low frequency bands". There's also the fact that current smartphones don't use the spectrums that T-Mobile just bought, so this is definitely a long-term investment.

T-Mobile spent a whopping $7.99 billion in this auction to pick up all of this spectrum, and it's going to be a big deal for customers.

The spectrum that was being auctioned came from television station broadcast frequencies. The auction, which began previous year, was conducted over two major stages.

TV stations and affiliates voluntarily put up their spectrum capacity for sale, and nearly 1,000 broadcasters came up as winners in the FCC auction. The government later sold the spectrum in a so-called forward auction to wireless providers.

"Consumers are the real beneficiaries, as broadcasters invest new resources in programming and service, and additional wireless spectrum opens the way to greater competition and innovation in the mobile broadband marketplace", FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said.

The way the modern wireless internet industry works is using airwaves as a kind of series of highways where data travels from the carriers to the consumers. But it's a limited resource and controlled, for the most part, by the United States government.

The biggest victor was T-Mobile, which won $8 billion in spectrum, representing about 40% of the total amount bid. That meant disrupting the lineup of broadcast stations on the UHF band to make way for prized spectrum valued by mobile and wireless firms.

"It is encouraging to see that competitive carriers and potential new entrants secured the majority of the spectrum auctioned".

Comcast, which plans to unveil a new wireless service that uses Wi-Fi hotspots and Verizon's cellular network, bid $1.7 billion on airwaves.

Verizon's absence, and the strong showing from companies like Comcast that don't now operate cellular networks, is a sign of the changing telecommunications landscape. An FCC spokesman declined to comment on when the results will be announced.

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