AT&T (T) , Verizon Communications (VZ) , T-Mobile USA (TMUS) , Comcast (CMCSA) and other potential buyers of wireless spectrum licenses made underwhelming offers in the third stage of a government auction. The bidding began and ended on Monday, lasting just one round and setting up a next stage of the auction.
The Federal Communication Commission is selling television broadcast spectrum licenses to wireless carriers and other buyers through a complex auction aimed at enticing broadcasters to sell their licenses to the government, so that the wavelengths can be repurposed for wireless service.
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Each stage of the auction contains two rounds of bidding. In the first, broadcasters tell the FCC how much they will accept for their spectrum. Then, wireless carriers and other bidders say how much they are willing to spend. In each subsequent round, the government offers less spectrum for sale to incentivize bidders to act sooner rather than later.
The latest bidding lasted just one round, with the wireless carriers and others offering about $19.7 billion, well below the TV station owners' ask of $40.3 billion.
BIA/Kelsey analyst Mark Fratrik expected the wireless carriers to show more interest in the latest round. TV station owners have lowered the ask from $86.4 billion in the first round to $54.6 billion in the second before their latest offer in the third round, which closed Thursday.