FCC closes $19bn wireless spectrum auction

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The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has officially ended the auction for the highly-contested 700MHz spectrum..

The FCC said that the auction raised roughly US$19.6 billion. The winners were not named.

Around US$4.75 billion of the total was for the highly-publicised Upper-C block, previously used for over-the-air television transmissions, which had been hotly contested by internet firms and television companies.

The FCC has placed a stipulation on the block which requires the winner to make the spectrum an open network for all wireless devices.

Other wireless networks allow the operator to limit access to specific handsets sold by the service provider and its partner companies.

Prospective buyers for the spectrum included Google, Verizon and AT&T. The decision to make the Upper-C block an open network was first announced by FCC chairman Kevin Martin in July.

Telecoms operators objected to the announcement, accusing the FCC of deliberately setting guidelines which would favour Google and other tech firms. One trade group went so far as to condemn the ruling as "Silicon Valley welfare ".

The auction for the spectrum kicked off on 24 January and had reached the US$4.65 billion reserve price by 1 February, thus assuring that the winner would be bound to make the spectrum an open network.

"This auction provided an opportunity to have a significant effect on the next phase of wireless broadband innovation," said Martin.

"The open platform will help foster innovation on the edge of the network, while creating more choices and greater freedom for consumers to use the wireless devices and applications of their choice."

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