The current auction by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of wireless spectrum licenses may prove to be the most lucrative in the Commission’s history, and provide a major windfall for taxpayers while potentially raising the cost of wireless traffic for consumers.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, bids received to date in connection with the Commission’s auction already total $34 billion, with bids submitted by at least 70 different entities. The FCC’s original goal for this auction, the first major spectrum auction since 2008, was to raise at least $10.6 billion.
The fury of activity is being attributed to the explosive growth in the use of wireless devices and the ever-increasing demand for spectrum to support consumer demand. The CTIA estimates that Americans spent 2.6 trillion minutes talking on cellphones in 2013, up 17% since 2010, but that data usage has increased by over 700% during the same period, from 388 billion megabytes to over 3.2 trillion megabytes.
More than 1600 separate licenses covering the mid-band wireless spectrum (1700 MHz and 2100 MHz) are being made available in this round, with individual bids for licenses in some of the most heavily populated areas of the U.S. already nearing $2 billion.