A total of 62 bidders qualified to take part in the latest US spectrum auction, including AT&T, Verizon Communications, Dish Network and T-Mobile US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) confirmed.
The auction is set to begin on 16 August. Last month, the FCC said the 126MHz of 600MHz radio frequencies given up by TV broadcasters for sale to the mobile industry are worth $86.4 billion.
Bidders were asked to pay 50 per cent of the opening bid price to participate. Some 100 firms and individuals were qualified to take part, but many declined to pay.
Earlier this year number four US mobile operator Sprint pulled out of the running, while Google also stated it will not be bidding.
In the first round (reverse auction) broadcasters competed to give up unwanted spectrum to the FCC for the lowest price. Now, in the forward auction, companies will bid to buy the airwaves for the highest price.
Reuters quoted analysts as saying operators may not be willing to pay the high amount, in which case the FCC may have to hold additional auction rounds.
The report added that “the so-called ‘broadcast incentive’ spectrum auction is one of the commission’s most complex and ambitious to date”.
Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner said that with the US presidential elections coming up and other economic uncertainty, operators will not want to raise more debt to bid, adding that broadcasters have “significantly inflated expectations”.
Meanwhile, S&P Global Market Intelligence estimated in April that a dozen broadcasters, such as Univision Communications and CBS, could generate up to $13 billion from the process.
Last week, the FCC adopted rules for high-frequency spectrum which it said “set a strong foundation for the rapid advancement to next-generation 5G networks and technologies in the US”.
Earlier this year, Tom Wheeler, FCC chairman, predicted a “spectrum extravaganza” from the sale. He had said that the reverse auction would prove to be the world’s largest sale of radio frequencies.