Verizon wins 'open access' licenses in FCC auction

Wireless-service provider beats out Google for licenses in the C-Block of the federal communications agency's 700MHz spectrum auction.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

It's official: Verizon Wireless has won licenses for nationwide coverage in the C-Block in the 700MHz spectrum auction conducted by the Federal Communications Commission.

This means that Verizon, not Google, will control the spectrum that is required by the FCC to adhere to special open-access rules.

Google had lobbied the FCC last summer to include several rules in the 700MHz spectrum auction that mandated open access. The FCC adopted only one of Google's proposed rules, which requires the winner to allow any device or application to connect to a network that uses this spectrum.

Google made good on its promise to bid in this sliver of spectrum in the auction. But as I predicted months ago, the company wasn't really serious about winning the auction. Instead, it looks like it just wanted to push the price of the auction above the $4.6 billion threshold to ensure that the open-access rule would go into effect.

Google apparently did not win any licenses in the auction, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said at a press conference in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, according to The Wall Street Journal.

It's not surprising that Verizon won the C-Block licensees. Analysts had been predicting that for weeks.

Now it looks like the company will include this spectrum in its new open-device initiative. In November, the company announced that it would allow subscribers to bring their own phone or other wireless device to its network.

On Tuesday, Verizon released specifications and certification testing information for devices that it will allow on this open network.

Of course, the very fact that the company still requires device makers to certify their products for use on its network means that it isn't completely "open." But the new certification process is streamlined and will allow device makers to get through certification in weeks rather than in months.

Verizon also won other 700MHz spectrum licenses. It was the largest winner of licenses in the A-Block, which are midsize licenses. And it won 77 licenses in the B-Block, the smallest regional licenses that were being auctioned.

Satellite TV provider EchoStar Communications also won enough spectrum licenses to give the company nearly nationwide wireless coverage. EchoStar and DirecTV Group had dropped out of the Advanced Wireless Service auction in 2006. AT&T also won a large number of the smallest licenses that were auctioned.

The auction, which sold spectrum being freed from the transition to digital TV in 2009, closed on Tuesday, raising a record $19.6 billion.