Spectrum Auction Delayed Until 2015
December 7, 2013

FCC Delays Television Spectrum Auction Until 2015

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A planned television spectrum auction intended to bolster wireless services has been delayed until 2015, US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler announced on Friday.

The decision to postpone the auction, during which the FCC will attempt to buy back airwaves from TV stations and license them to wireless carriers, was  “widely expected,” according to Gautham Nagesh of the Wall Street Journal. The commission had originally hoped to have the process complete by the end of next year.

“The FCC is now drafting the rules to reshuffle the ownership of valuable frequencies that are increasingly needed to satisfy demand from data-hungry devices,” Reuters reporter Alina Selyukh explained. “The process has been a challenge because of the complex engineering and political ramifications, including a vocal push from smaller wireless carriers for limitations on how much spectrum the larger companies can acquire at the auction.”

Bloomberg’s Elizabeth Wasserman said the delay in the complex proceedings is an indirect result of the difficulties the Obama administration faced with the roll out of the Healthcare.gov website. Wheeler admitted that the FCC planned to “check and recheck” the software being used for the auction before beginning the spectrum sale.

“Wheeler cited the auction’s complexity as he announced its delay, likening the multi-step process to ‘a Rubik’s cube.’ It involves obtaining airwaves volunteered by broadcasters and then selling the frequencies in blocks to wireless companies,” Wasserman added. “Some broadcasters also want to be moved to new airwaves.”

While Bloomberg reports that larger carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless view the auction as a much-needed reallocation of assets to help carriers deal with dramatic increases in mobile and wireless traffic, Nagesh said that it is of particular importance to smaller firms such as T-Mobile and Sprint. It gives those companies a rare chance to get their hands on additional low-band airwaves.

Wheeler said that a new timetable for the proceedings will be presented to the five-person commission early next year, prior to a planned vote. Later on in 2014, comments from the public regarding the proceedings will be accepted. “Getting the right policy and procedures for the auction is only half the job,” the chairman wrote. “For the incentive auction to be a success, we must also ensure that the operating systems and software to run it work from the moment the first bid is placed, until the final broadcast station is relocated or ‘repacked.’”