September 19, 2006, 8:38 AM — T-Mobile USA Inc. came out the biggest spender in the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's Advanced Wireless Services spectrum auction, which ended Monday.
Participants bid a total of nearly US$13.9 billion on 1,087 licenses to offer 3G (third-generation) mobile services in areas across the U.S. The auction began Aug. 9 and went on for 161 rounds. The radio frequencies could be used for services including data, voice and video on mobile devices.
The auction is the first of two that should roughly double the amount of radio spectrum available in the U.S. for mobile services. The FCC is also preparing to auction frequencies around 700 MHz that have been used for TV broadcasts. Moving those to mobile use could take years.
T-Mobile is playing catch-up against bigger carriers in introducing 3G services. Its bidding company, T-Mobile License LLC, had the winning bids on 120 licenses and will pay almost $4.2 billion for its spectrum. All told, the licenses it won could reach almost 475 million people, a number greater than the U.S. population. There was a wide variety of licenses up for auction, ranging from local to regional coverage.
The five biggest bidders, led by T-Mobile, represented the country's biggest cellular companies. Cellco Partnership, representing Verizon Wireless Inc., came in second place with $2.8 billion in bids for 13 licenses. SpectrumCo LLC, representing Sprint Nextel Corp. and cable partners, bid almost $2.4 billion for 137 licenses and Metro PCS AWS LLC bid almost $1.4 billion for eight licenses. Cingular Wireless LLC, represented by Cingular AWS LLC, came in fifth with bids of more than $1.3 billion for 48 licenses.
Overall, more than half of the 104 winning bidders that participated were certified as small businesses, according to the FCC. The agency put 1,122 licenses up for auction. The unsold licenses will be made available again in a future auction.
The winners need to make down payments within ten days after the FCC puts out a public notice on the close of the auction. In the same time period, they have to submit long-form applications for the licenses.