IT'S OVER: FCC's AWS-3 spectrum auction ends at record $44.9B in bids

(Editor's Note: The results from the auction are now in. Click here to check out our coverage.)

The FCC said bidding in the AWS-3 spectrum auction, known as auction 97, is now closed after 341 rounds of bidding. Total provisional winning bids came in at a record $44.899 billion. That's far more money than the FCC raised in its previous spectrum auctions.

The FCC set a reserve price on the auction of around $10 billion. Analysts had predicted that the auction would raise anywhere from $10 billion to $20 billion. But the event has raised far more than anyone in the industry expected.

Indeed, the auction raised far more than all other major FCC auctions, including the $13.7 billion raised during the AWS-1 auction in 2006, and the $18.9 billion raised during the 700 MHz auction in 2008. 

The AWS-3 auction closed less than 24 hours after the FCC had said that bidding had ended on the 50 MHz of paired spectrum being auctioned off. The FCC was also auctioning 15 MHz of unpaired uplink spectrum, the 1695-1710 MHz band.

The paired spectrum in the auction includes the G Block (1755-1760/2155-2160 MHz), H Block (1760-1765/2160-2165 MHz), I Block (1765-1770/2165-2170 MHz), and J Block (1770-1780MHz /2170-2180 MHz). The G Block is licensed in 734 Cellular Market Area (CMA) geographies and the other paired spectrum blocks are licensed in 176 geographically larger Economic Areas (EAs).

The paired spectrum licenses drew by far the largest bids, especially for the 10x10 MHz J Block in major metropolitan areas. The unpaired spectrum is generally seen as less valuable than the paired spectrum, and it is also encumbered by government users that must be moved off the licenses before they can be used.

New Street Research analysts wrote in a research note last week that they think AT&T (NYSE: T) could wind up spending anywhere from $20 billion to $22 billion at the auction, more than Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ). That forecast came after AT&T disclosed that it entered into credit agreements worth $11.2 billion. The identities of the bidders, and which spectrum blocks they won during the auction, will remain confidential until after the auction fully closes.

Shortly after bidding in the auction ends, the commission will issue a new public notice declaring the auction has fully closed. The FCC will also identify the winners, and it will establish the deadlines for winning bidders to submit their down payments, their final payments, their long-form applications and their ownership disclosure reports. Currently, it is looking like final payments will be due in mid-to-late February..

Here is some analysis on the auction from Stephen Wilkus of Spectrum Financial Partners.

Click here for a bigger version of this chart.

Click here for a bigger version of this chart.

For more:
- see this auction page

Special Report: AWS-3 spectrum auction primer: What you need to know

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