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FCC spectrum auction ends with more than $1.5B in proceeds

The H block auction comes to a close as the FCC reaches the reserve price of more than $1.5 billion, which will be used to help fund the building of a nationwide public safety network.

The Federal Communications Commission's spectrum auction for the so-called H Block concluded Thursday after bids reached the $1.564 billion reserve price that satellite provider Dish Network had promised to pay for the airwaves prior to the auction.

The auction, which began on January 22, closed after 167 rounds of bidding. Proceeds of this auction and the upcoming 600MHz TV spectrum auction scheduled for 2015 will be used to help fund a nationwide public safety network.

"With this successful auction, the Commission makes good on its commitment to unleash more spectrum for consumers and businesses, delivering a significant down payment towards funding the nationwide interoperable public safety network," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. "The H Block auction is a win for the American people, and we thank Chairwoman Clyburn for her leadership scheduling it. We also commend everyone who worked so hard to resolve technical issues that made this previously unusable spectrum valuable."

The names of winning bidders and the amounts of their bids will be made public in a few days. But the FCC has been posting the size and quantity of bids for licenses as the auction proceeded. It looks like licenses for large markets, such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago generated the most cash.

The auction was almost guaranteed to generate at least the $1.564 billion reserve price. Before the auction began, the FCC struck a deal with satellite TV provider Dish, which was the largest of the 34 applicants wanting to bid in the auction. In exchange for promising to bid at least the reserve price, the FCC offered Dish more flexibility in terms of how long it has to build out the network and also how the satellite TV provider can use its existing spectrum.

Dish already owns spectrum that is next to the H block airwaves, making the this a very good fit for the company.

This auction was the first auction conducted by the FCC since the 700MHz auction in 2008, but the FCC is in the planning process of other auctions that will put more spectrum in the hands of wireless operators.

"I am pleased that the Commission has completed its first spectrum auction in six years," Republican FCC commissioner Ajit Pai said in a statement. " This was no easy task. In light of once intractable issues surrounding the H Block, the Commission worked together, took steps to ensure that the auction would yield maximum revenue, and refrained from saddling the spectrum with unnecessary conditions. As a result, we have raised $1.564 billion from spectrum that used to be viewed as almost worthless."