FCC's Nov. 13 Wireless Auction: Key Facts About the Event

When the FCC's AWS-3 wireless spectrum auction opens on Nov. 13, some 80 applicants will compete to acquire newly available wireless spectrum.

FCC wireless spectrum auction

When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opens its Nov. 13 AWS-3 wireless spectrum auction up to bidders, some 80 applicants will compete to beat out their competitors for a larger chunk of the finite wireless spectrum that is used to support wireless calls, data transmissions and other communications.

The auction, called Auction 97, will remain open until bidding stops, which can be weeks or months, and then the FCC will examine the bids to ensure they are from qualified bidders, that they meet a series of technical and regulatory requirements and that they conform to other stipulations, according to the agency.

All of this is being done as part of a process that will allow portions of the wireless spectrum that are no longer in use to be reallocated to new licensees so that the bandwidth can be used to expand wireless services, according to the FCC.

Some of the better known applicants in the list of proposed bidders include three of the four largest U.S. wireless carriers—Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile—as well as Dish Network, according to a report by Seeking Alpha. "Sprint is planning sit out on the auction to save firepower for a major sale of low-frequency airwaves scheduled for next year," the report stated.

Applicants had to fill out a short form prior to the auction to participate, which helps to establish that they meet the requirements for bidding on the spectrum that is up for grabs.

Once the auction opens, bids are taken anonymously through a live dynamic online portal, according to the FCC. When the FCC deems the auction closed, it will provisionally name the winners and then collect payments for the winning bids. Licensing reviews and other reviews will follow before the licenses for the spectrum are eventually issued, according to the FCC.

AWS-3 is an abbreviation for Advanced Wireless Services-3.

The AWS-3 auction centers on three specific portions of the wireless spectrum, according to the FCC: 1,695 to 1,710MHz; 1,755 to 1,780MHz; and 2,155 to 2,180MHz bands.

Bidders will compete for 1,614 spectrum licenses available in the auction, including 734 Cellular Market Area (CMA) licenses, according to the FCC. The AWS-3 frequencies will be licensed in 5 and 10MHz blocks, with each license having a total bandwidth of 5, 10 or 20MHz.

By allowing new users to take over the available segments of wireless spectrum, the FCC is hoping to expand the spectrum available to consumers, business users and others who are continuing to demand more wireless performance and services.

The AWS-3 auction has been in the works by the FCC for some time. In April, the FCC released a 139-page "Report and Order" which set the rules for the event and detailed how it would repurpose federal spectrum in the AWS-3 band for commercial use, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The auction represents the "largest amount of spectrum suitable for mobile broadband use that the commission has made available for auction since the 700MHz band was auctioned in 2008," the FCC said in a statement at the time.