U.S. wireless service providers (and potentially others) soon will have the chance to bid on new wireless spectrum in the 700 MHz frequency range, and expected to be used to support new Long Term Evolution mobile networks. The allocation is important for a couple of reasons.

First, it might be the last big block of new wireless spectrum to be allocated for some time. “This is going to be the largest block of spectrum made available to the public for mobile broadband purposes in the next few decades,” said Harold Furchtgott-Roth, a former member of the Federal Communications Commission. “Don’t see what else that is out there after this auction.”

Second, firms that do not win spectrum in the auction will have incentives to buy spectrum from other potential suppliers, especially Clearwire. Also, holders of some satellite spectrum that could be “re-purposed” for such purposes, notwithstanding the recent failure of LightSquared to win approval of its plan to re-use mobile satellite spectrum for a terrestrial Long Term Evolution network.

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The expected 120 MHz of spectrum has been authorized for release by the U.S. Congress, but the Federal Communications Commission still has to craft the bidding rules.

Nor is it immediately clear how soon auction rules could be approved, or how long it will take to clear broadcast television users out of the spectrum. Though broadcasters received use of that spectrum for free, they will be compensated to vacate the spectrum.

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