Communications regulators have cleared Google to bid in an upcoming auction of coveted wireless airwaves, according to auction documents released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Monday.
The auction is scheduled to begin on Jan. 24 and expected to raise at least $10 billion for the U.S. government from airwaves being returned by television broadcasters as they move to digital from analog signals in early 2009.
The list of qualified bidders also included U.S. wireless providers AT&T and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group, as well as ventures involving EchoStar, Cablevision, Qualcomm and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
On a separate list of potential bidders that did not qualify for the auction was a venture affiliated with Frontline Wireless, a startup that had proposed to build a national network using a block of spectrum to be shared with public safety agencies.
A Frontline official said last week that the company was “closed at this time” and declined further comment.
The 700MHz signals are valuable because they can go long distances and penetrate thick walls.
The spectrum is to be auctioned off in several different blocks, ranging from smaller regional blocks to large, nationwide ones.
Up-front payments for the spectrum licenses can range from several thousand dollars to more than $100 million, depending on the size of the license a company is seeking.
The auction is seen as a last opportunity for a new player to enter the wireless market. Google and other Silicon Valley leaders see the wireless spectrum as a way to create more open competition for mobile services and devices than those available on existing networks.