LIVE FROM CES 2016: Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), predicted a “spectrum extravaganza” from the billion-dollar sale of US airwaves scheduled for the first quarter of 2016.
In bullish mood, the FCC chief said the so-called reverse auction will prove to be the world’s largest sale of radio frequencies. It is due to happen in 84 days.
However he would not be drawn into putting a figure on the proceeds during a fireside chat with Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association.
Wheeler explained how the auction will work, with broadcasters first selling their 600MHz spectrum to the FCC then the regulator auctioning the frequencies to the mobile industry.
“Safe to say it will be a spectrum extravaganza with lots of selling and lots of buying,” he said. Broadcasters have less than one week to register as spectrum sellers with the FCC.
He said big name broadcasters were interested in the auction but didn’t name anyone, and said undisclosed mobile operators were game too (although Sprint has already ruled itself out). There will be a transfer of spectrum in every major US city, he predicted.
“This is the last time we sell sand on the beach. And this is beachfront property,” said Wheeler.
But this process has not been without its share of headaches, with broadcasters originally taking legal action against the FCC over the sale.