Government's wireless spectrum auction closes

The federal government said that the 700-megahertz wireless spectrum auction has come to a close. The government will announce the winners in a matter of days.

Fortune magazine’s Techland blog said that, after eight weeks, there were 261 rounds of bidding. The spectrum is becoming available in 2009 thanks to the conversion from analog TV to digital TV that will take place on February 18, 2009. It is the last major chunk of nationwide spectrum available for wireless services. The bids reached a total of $19.6 billion, higher than the $10 billion the Federal Communications Commission set as its goal. Bidders included Verizon, Google, AT&T, and Qualcomm.

The winners are to be announced after all five blocks of spectrum are sold. The D block, which was set aside for a national public safety network, failed to raise the minimum of $1.3 billion set by the FCC. .

Reed Hundt, the former chairman of the FCC, had organized an effort to bid on the spectrum through his company Frontline Wireless, which focused on the public safety and open network opportunities of the spectrum. The effort had the backing of venture capitalists John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Ram Shriram of Sherpalo Ventures, and others. But he said that he knew that his company was out of the running, noting that it was out of business in January. Despite the backers, Hundt said his company couldn’t raise enough money. Beyond that, he said didn’t know how everything would turn out. Hundt made the comments during his speech at the Spring Von.x 2008 conference in San Jose.

“I could speculate that Verizon got a sweetheart deal but I would be making that up,” he said. “I can’t say whether it was a failure without knowing who won. If no new entrant comes out of it with a lot of spectrum, that is noteworthy.”

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