700MHz Auction – What You Need to Know (So Far)

Could you carry on a conversation about the impending spectrum auction if someone were to strike one up with you? Don’t worry about it, most of us can’t. Not to worry though, AndroidGuys is here to help explain a little bit more about this 700MHz spectrum that seems to be a big buzz term in the tech community lately. You’ve probably seen quite a bit written up recently about who may or may not be bidding in the auction come January, especially last week once Google made the announcement signaling their intent to participate. Today, we want to tell you a little bit more about what the 700MHz is used for, what it could potentially be used for, and why it has been making headlines. This way you gain an understanding as to why companies are ready to plunk down over $4.6B next spring.

Currently, the spectrum is being used for analog television broadcasts. As we all know, in February 2009 we will no longer be seeing that as we are transitioning to digital television. This spectrum would work well as an alternative to DSL or cable internet providers as it travels easily and penetrates walls. It would be very enticing to businesses already in the wireless game, as it could be how they’d end up providing high speed internet to their consumers. It could also be a great way for companies to get their feet wet offering their own services.

So now we come to Google’s involvement and why it was a big deal that they announced their intention to bid. Back in the summer, Google petitioned the FCC to enforce rules on the companies who intended to bid on the spectrum should they end up winning. The biggest provision made was that it would require the winner to support any wireless device or any software application. Verizon fought these requirements for a while and at one point tried to sue the FCC. Ultimately decided to drop their argument and make nice. In a change of heart, they even announced their “Any App, Any Phone’ initiative last week.

With Google recently making headlines with their ‘intention to bid’, many are asking how serious this bid really is and whether or not Google plans on seeing the auction through to the end. A lot of people have speculated that Google will make the introductory offer of $4.6B and bow out. It’s been said that they only intend to bid because they were the company that had the FCC make provisions to the rules.

The auction does not begin until January 24th but that doesn’t mean we don’t know who is going to participate. So far, we do know that besides Google, we’ll also get bids from Verizon, AT&T, Cox Cable, Echostar, Leap Wireless and Frontline Wireless. The actual list might be slightly larger because companies only had to notify the FCC of their intent secretly and not publicly. Names that are noticeably absent from the list are Time Warner, AOL, Comcast, Sprint, and Clearwire. These are names that have been essentially confirmed as not partaking in the event. The auction is likely to last several weeks or months, but one thing is certain; Come February 2009, someone else will be broadcasting on 700MHz. Smart money says Google have their search engine, applications, and ads in place regardless of who wins.

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