The US Federal Communications Commission said 126MHz of radio frequencies given up by TV broadcasters for sale to the mobile industry are worth $86.4 billion.
The regulator revealed the price after completing the first stage of its incentive auction, the ultimate aim of which is to transfer spectrum from the TV industry to mobile operators.
However, analysts contacted by Reuters cautioned whether operators would be willing to match the eye-popping value that broadcasters have placed on their frequencies.
Among the registered bidders are AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile US.
Broadcasters in the auction voluntarily relinquish their spectrum usage rights in the first stage (the reverse auction). They compete to offer spectrum at the lowest price. The next stage is a forward auction, which will determine the price that bidders, including mobile operators, are willing to pay for wireless licences.
The reverse and forward auctions are linked by a repacking process whereby the FCC reorganises and assigns spectrum to the remaining broadcasters in order to create contiguous blocks of cleared spectrum for mobile broadband.
The 126MHz was the maximum spectrum clearing target set by the FCC, above which it was concerned about interference issues.
“Strong participation from broadcast stations made this initial clearing target possible,” said Gary Epstein, chair of the FCC’s incentive auction task force.
However, not everyone is convinced bidders in the forward auction will match the broadcasters’ desire to sell. If the forward auction does not match the value placed on broadcasters then a second round of the reverse auction could happen later in the year, say analysts.