Bidders Emerge in Wireless Auction
Internet giant Google Inc. and telecommunications carriers AT&T Inc. and
Verizon Wireless are among those expected to bid in January in a government
auction of the last remaining smidge of wireless airwaves.
Companies wishing to participate in the auction had until Monday to file an
application with the Federal Communications Commission.
In about three weeks, the agency will release a full roster of application
submissions. Companies that filed incomplete applications have a chance to refile
by Dec. 28, which also is the auction's deadline for upfront payments.
The wireless airwaves up for bidding lie on a particularly valuable band of
spectrum, that's being freed up as part of the switch to digital television
in February 2009. The choice airwaves can travel long distances and easily penetrate
walls, ideal for high-speed Internet service.
The auction, scheduled to begin Jan. 24, could raise as much as $15 billion
for the U.S. Treasury.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Google confirmed
last week it would bid at least $4.6 billion, while AT&T executives
previously indicated they'd participate for what they consider "beachfront
"It doesn't get any better than this," AT&T Chief Executive Randall
Stephenson said of the opportunity, during an appearance last week at the Churchill
Club in Santa Clara, Calif.
Verizon Wireless -- a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. and
Vodafone Group Plc. -- is largely expected to participate, although executives
have not explicitly said so.
Privately held Cox Communications Inc., the country's third-largest cable provider,
appears to be the only cable operator in on the bidding. Both Time Warner Cable
Inc. and Comcast Corp. declined on Monday.
Comcast, Time Warner and Sprint Nextel Corp. are part of a group that purchased
a swath of spectrum last fall through another government auction. Comcast said
that purchase provides it with "significant long-term flexibility and many
Also declining to bid is satellite broadcaster DirecTV Group Inc., according
to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Tuesday.
A spokesman for EchoStar Communications Corp. declined to comment Tuesday on
whether the satellite TV provider would participate in the auction.
But Pacific Crest Securities analyst Steve Clement said its participation may
signal to investors that AT&T's rumored buyout of EchoStar may not happen.
He added that with the auction now entering a "quiet period," participants
-- including AT&T and EchoStar -- are prohibited from discussing potential
Expected bidders also include Frontline Wireless LLC, a technology industry-backed
company headed by former federal officials, and low-cost wireless providers
MetroPCS Communications Inc. and Leap Wireless International Inc.