The FCC released results from the 700 MHZ auction and it looks like the pre-release consensus was right. Verizon Wireless and AT&T were the big winners, with Verizon gaining a national 700 MHz footprint. They both bid a combined $16.3 billion, with AT&T bidding $6.64 billion for 227 B-block licenses and Verizon Wireless bidding $9.63 billion for the large C-block regional licenses. An additional 99 bidders won 754 licenses, including familiar names like Echostar (DISH Networks) and Cox. The outcome of the auction did not produce a viable national wireless competitor, as many had hoped, but there are some interesting twists.
Echostar bid $711 million for 168 E-block licenses, which covers a large portion of the U.S. Cox bid close to $305 million for 22 licenses in the A and B blocks. Their licenses will include areas of California, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. These two winners will probably be the most interesting to watch from a competitive angle. Echostar now has a conceivable way to offer broadband, although speculation is that they have their eyes on mobile video, which the E-block spectrum is much better suited for. Among smaller service providers, CenturyTel won 69 B-block licenses for $149 million, raising the potential for CenturyTel to launch its own wireless service. Several tier 3 carriers won licenses including Horry Telephone of South Carolina, Pioneer Telephone in Oklahoma, and PVT Networks in New Mexico. While the auction failed to bring a competitor to the national stage, and may have fallen somewhat short from an overall competitive standpoint, it did empower several entrants into the wireless space. Time will tell whether those entrants can actually have a competitive impact in their respective territories, but it will be interesting to observe over the coming months and years.