Fri, Aug 24th 2007 6:01pm
The talk around the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum license auctions continues. After Google's CEO earlier this week said the company would "probably" bid in the auction, even though the FCC didn't implement the open-access provisions Google wanted, a couple of divergent opinions on the auction's impact on the telecom landscape have come out. On the one hand, former FCC bigwig Blair Levin says the auction isn't likely to result in a new nationwide mobile operator; on the other, a "source at a major cellular company" says the auction isn't attractive for incumbent operators. Who to believe? As usual, the truth in somewhere in the middle, but we're more inclined to take Levin's view of things. Incumbent operators will likely shy away from the 22 MHz of spectrum with open-access rules -- not just because they don't want to operate under the restrictions, but also because if the auction for those licenses fails to generate $4.6 billion, the open-access rules will be lifted, and the auction will start over. Once it hits $4.6 billion on that first go-around, though, operators will bid because there's simply too much spectrum on offer to ignore it. Their choice of technology could render the open-access rules useless, really -- after all, if they pick a proprietary or unpopular technology for their network, they'll be the only people selling compatible devices for it. When you get down to brass tacks, the incumbent operators are going to spend whatever's necessary to acquire the spectrum, despite what anonymous sources within them say. Spectrum in general is their lifeblood, and this 700 MHz spectrum in particular has too many positive attributes for mobile broadband for them to pass up. They'll bid aggressively to defend their turf, and if anybody is going to unseat them, it's going to take a hell of a lot of investment.
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