Big FCC Auction Winner? Convergence

Carl Weinschenk

Here's a tag line that the New York State Lottery used for years: "You Gotta Be In It to Win It."

Apparently, a lot of companies with big wallets remember the slogan. Experts are saying that bidding in the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) advanced wireless spectrum (AWS) auction could reach $15 billion. So far, big rollers include Cingular, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, the Dolan family (big wigs in the cable industry), an Echostar/DIRECTV consortium called Wireless DBS, and SpectrumCo. SpectrumCo is a cellular/cable play comprised of Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks, and Sprint Nextel. The bidding seems to be fluid, so the leader board likely will change repeatedly before the proceedings conclude.

This is all about convergence and interactivity, of course. The cable companies want to complete their quadruple play marriage of voice, video, data and wireless. The cellular companies want to buttress their 3G, 3.5G and nascent 4G services. Even poor DIRECTV and Echostar -- the stepchildren of the interactive age because their delivery platform requires bouncing signals off orbiting satellites thousands of miles away -- are gearing up. They plan to use any spectrum they win to augment their adequate one-way video delivery platform with a more interactive terrestrial approach.

There's a bit of a wild card feel to the proceedings. The public appears ready for highly interactive, innovative and often portable services and applications. For big companies, this suggests that the prudent thing is to stockpile as much bandwidth as possible now and figure out precisely what to do with it later. Surely, some of the resulting services will be aimed at businesses.

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