WASHINGTONFCC Chairman William Kennard told Congress this week he is postponing until September spectrum auctions that were scheduled to begin June 7.
In a letter to Senate appropriators who have already factored the auction proceeds into their budget calculations, Kennard said he has "serious concerns about the compressed timing for these auctions." The planned auctions are for 36 MHz of spectrum at 700 MHz, formerly analog TV channels 60-69. The spectrum is considered a prime slot for future wireless services such at third-generation phones.
The FCC's actions stem in part from pressure by large wireless bidders who have complained that the spectrum could be riddled with interference from adjacent broadcast spectrum. In filings to the FCC, wireless companies have said negotiations with broadcasters could delay the implementation of new services like high-speed Internet connections to 3G phones.
This year's appropriation bill, which projected about $2.6 billion in wireless auction revenues, directed the FCC to complete the channel 60-69 auction by the end of the current fiscal year, Sept. 30.
The UHF factor
"I have concluded that a postponement of both 700 MHz auctions until September is in the public interest," Kennard told lawmakers. "Additional time will allow auction bidders to develop better business plans and bidding strategies and to form strategic alliances. Moreover, as you know, UHF television broadcasters currently use the band and are entitled to continue to do so during the transition to digital television.
"This factor makes this auction extremely complex and requires potential bidders to conduct additional analysis to provide for sound technical, operational, and financial planning," he added.
Kennard's move was prompted in part by a lobbying campaign by wireless companies who sought to delay the auctions while they worked out bidding strategies. Prior to sending the letter to Congress, Kennard said a brief delay in the wireless auctions would allow broadcasters and 3G wireless providers to work out their differences.
The auction delay is also raising industry fears that the FCC isn't moving fast enough to earmark more spectrum for 3G, especially since Europe and Asia have already set aside frequencies.