The two largest cellphone companies dominated bidding in a record-setting government airwaves auction, according to results released Thursday. AT&T and Verizon Wireless together won $16 billion of the $19.6 billion bid in the auction. Verizon bid $9.4 billion and AT&T $6.6 billion.
The results raised concern that the auction failed to attract any new competitors to the cellular telephone market to challenge the dominant companies. Google was not among the winners, meaning the search engine giant will not be entering the wireless business.
One new entrant, Frontier Wireless LLC, owned by leading satellite television company EchoStar., won nearly enough licenses to create a nationwide footprint.
Verizon Wireless won nearly every license in the consumer-friendly "C block." The frequencies, which encompass about one-third of the spectrum at auction, is subject to "open access" provisions pushed by the FCC. That means people on the network can use whatever phones or software they wish. Verizon won enough licenses to cover every state but Alaska.
Google posted a bid for the C block licenses early in the auction, assuring that the open-access provision would be put in place, but the offer was not enough.
A section of airwaves dedicated for a nationwide emergency communications network failed to attract a winning bidder. FCC head Martin ordered an investigation. Public interest groups asked the agency to investigate allegations about a meeting between Frontline Wireless and its financial backers and a company called Cyren Call, created by Nextel Corp. co-founder Morgan O'Brien. Frontline was widely expected to bid on the public safety spectrum block. But the company dropped out before the auction began after failing to meet a minimum required payment.
Cyren Call was acting as the agent for a nonprofit public safety trust that would operate a shared network with the winning bidder. (Info from The Associated Press)