01.24.08

Cringely on the 700 MHz auction

Posted in 700 MHz at 1:48 pm by JamesNeel

Probably nothing new for readers (both of you!) of this blog, but Cringely comments on the 700 MHz auction in Popular Mechanics here. I found his speculation on google’s plans the most interesting.

Having obtained some concessions from the FCC, Google apparently feels bound to bid at least the minimum $4.6 billion for one block of spectrum known as the C Block. The question is whether Google is actually bidding to win or simply bidding to make sure some of its open access requirements are imposed on an eventual winner, which will only happen under FCC rules if the bidding for that C Block goes to at least $4.6 billion.  

Some pundits (that would be me) think Google will bid to win its spectrum block, then will trade that block to Sprint/Nextel for some of that company’s 2.5-GHz WiMAX licenses that are far better suited for data. Sprint Nextel, the number three U.S. mobile operator, is conspicuously absent from this week’s list of bidders, and its WiMAX strategy is in flux following the recent firing of CEO Gary Forsee, who was a big WiMAX backer. As the auction winner, Google could impose on Sprint Nextel its full open access requirements for the 700-MHz band (not just the limited access mandated for the band last year by the FCC), then extend that same access to its new WiMAX frequencies in a kind of one-two punch that would dramatically open up wireless data nationwide (that’s good for you and me). FCC chairman Kevin Martin was asked last week about just such a Google switcheroo and said the Commission would have no problem with it.

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