January 29, 2015 - 12:18 pm
By Roger C. Sherman | Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

The bidding in Auction 97 – the AWS-3 auction – has concluded. There will be a lot of discussion about the results over the days, weeks and months ahead, and rightly so – this was an historic auction. Although winning bidders must still make payments and submit applications prior to the grant of licenses, by any measure it’s safe to say that the auction was an overwhelming success. Based on the information available at this time, here are the highlights:

  • 65 megahertz of spectrum made available to meet the Nation’s demand for wireless broadband;
  • $7 billion to fund the Nation’s first nationwide broadband public safety network;
  • $300 million for public safety communications research;
  • $115 million in grants for 911, E911, and NextGen 911 implementation;
  • More than $20 billion for deficit reduction; and
  • Funding for relocating Federal systems.

With all the buzz about the auction revenues, let’s not forget the ultimate purpose of this auction – to make more spectrum available for wireless broadband. Additional spectrum resources will improve wireless providers’ ability to meet capacity and coverage needs across the country. This means better wireless service – faster speeds and greater access – for consumers.

Five years ago, many people doubted that we would succeed in making AWS-3 spectrum available. It is because of dedication, hard work, and compromise that a variety of government and industry stakeholders came together to develop a solution that made much of this spectrum newly available for commercial use. NTIA, the Department of Defense, other Federal agencies, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy all played a crucial role in pushing and shaping a new way for Federal agencies to think about spectrum and spectrum sharing. And these efforts were strongly encouraged by a bipartisan group of leaders from the House and Senate Commerce Committees and the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. There is much we have learned from this process that we can build upon in our future efforts to free up more spectrum to meet the nation’s wireless needs.

Over the next few weeks the provisionally-winning AWS-3 bidders will file applications and make payments for their winning bids. Our team in the Wireless Bureau will thoroughly review and scrutinize each application to assure that granting each license is in the public interest and, where applicable, that each applicant has complied with the Commission’s bidding credit rules. Licenses will then be issued, allowing licensees to use the spectrum consistent with our rules and coordination procedures. The downlink at 2155-2180 MHz will be immediately available for use after licenses are granted, and licensees may coordinate with government users for shared access in the 1755-1780 MHz and 1695-1710 MHz bands as government users transition their systems (see our Joint Public Notice for details on the coordination process).

As important as it is to meeting wireless consumers’ broadband needs, making the AWS-3 spectrum available is but one step toward making more spectrum available for commercial use – an ongoing policy priority for the Commission. In addition to AWS-3, over the past few years the Commission auctioned and licensed the 10 megahertz H block, changed rules to facilitate wireless broadband in 30 megahertz in the Wireless Communications Service, created new terrestrial wireless broadband rights for 40 megahertz in AWS-4, proposed specific rules for innovative shared use of up to 150 megahertz in the 3.5 GHz band, and greatly increased the usability of 100 megahertz of unlicensed spectrum in the 5 GHz band. And, to meet the demand for valuable low-band spectrum, we are well along in the process of developing the rules for the first ever incentive auction, which will begin early next year.