The 698-806 MHz range of TV channel frequencies (UHF 52 through 69) that were made available when the U.S. switched from analog to digital TV in June 2009 (see digital TV transition
). The FCC auctioned most of the remaining blocks in this spectrum from January 24 to March 18, 2008 (see chart below), which is expected to be used for high-speed Internet and data services for mobile devices.
The advantage of the 700 MHz spectrum is that the signals travel longer distances than the higher frequencies used by many other wireless systems. Networks using this spectrum require fewer cell towers to reach the same geographic area. In addition, like TV broadcasting, signals in this spectrum penetrate walls easily.
The Results - $19.6 Billion in Winning Bids
Verizon and AT&T were the big winners. For $9.9 billion, Verizon won 109 licenses nationwide in the A, B and C blocks; each C-block license covering a huge geographic area. AT&T won 227 B-block licenses for $6.6 billion. Dish Network won 168 E-block licenses for $712 million, while competitor DirecTV did not bid at all, and King Street Wireless picked up 152 licenses in various A and B blocks. The remaining licenses were won by several other organizations including Paul Allen's Vulcan Spectrum LLC, which secured A-block licenses in Oregon and Washington State.
Google Lost and Won
Google did not win any licenses, but bid high enough to trigger rules that require C-block licensees to open their networks. Under FCC rules, a $4.6 billion bid for the C-block would ensure the creation of a network open to third-party devices and applications.
The 700 MHz Auction
In 2008, more than a thousand regional licenses in the 700 MHz spectrum were won at auction. Nobody bid the $1.3 billion minimum for the D blocks next to the Public Safety blocks. Owners of the D-Public Safety blocks would have nationwide access and the right to use Public Safety spectrum when available.