The Broadcast Incentive Auction status
The latest FCC spectrum auction, the Broadcast Incentive Auction, being conducted right now comprises of two parts: one which includes determining how much broadcasters are willing to sell their spectrum currently used for TV (the “Reverse Auction”) and another part to determine how much wireless carriers and other bidders are willing to pay for that spectrum for wireless use (the “Forward Auction”). The auction continues with the reduction of spectrum available in stages until the price set by broadcasters effectively meets the price companions are willing to pay for the spectrum. The proceeds of the last stage (Stage 4) of the auction have now exceeded the cost of the spectrum the broadcasters are asking. The last stage will be followed by an assignment phase after which the auction will be over.
The auction as of stage 4 in the numbers:
The first round of forward auction assignment phase bidding will begin on Monday, March 6th, and all assignment rounds are scheduled to conclude by Thursday, March 30th.
The maps below show final stage 4 demand and population weighted spectrum cost. Click on the images to see the interactive maps. The areas where not all spectrum blocks have been sold are colored blue. On the map of demand changes gray color marks areas that didn't change category (stayed over/under supply) while red and blue colors are used for areas that changed category towards increasing or decreasing demand correspondingly.
The band consists of 35 MHz of contiguous uplink spectrum between 663-698 MHz adjacent to the lower 700 MHz uplink and corresponding 35 MHz of downlink spectrum between 617-652 MH. The band is broken down into seven 5+5 MHz blocks A through G. TV stations will remain on channels 36 and below. Channel 37 will continue to be used for radio astronomy and wireless medical devices. 3GPP will soon start working on the band specifications. In addition, the remaining 14 MHz of unlicensed spectrum will be available for innovative uses.
There is currently not a 3GPP band specification for the new frequency, but once the band is assigned then OEM device manufacturers will be able to start designing compatible devices. More information should become available within a few months from the end of the auction.
Relocation of TV stations
Before the carriers can use the spectrum the TV stations currently broadcasting in the band need to be relocated to lower channels. Read an interview with the Auction Task Force Vice Chair Howard Symons for details. Key quotes and points:
Not all spectrum in 617 - 698 MHz range is currently being used by protected TV stations.
The first map below shows all protected UHF TV stations on channels 38-51 as of February, 2017. Many of the stations shown on the map already agreed to return their licenses or share a channel with another station. When the auction concludes and the FCC publishes the results the map will be updated. All stations shown on this map will be relocated to lower channels by June 2020. The relocation schedule will be published after the conclusion of the auction.
Disclaimer: USE OF THESE MAPS IS AT THE USER'S SOLE RISK. Spectrum Gateway is no responsible for errors or omissions, or any consequences thereof.
Two maps below show availability of 600 MHz G and A blocks. Dark areas are protected TV stations preventing deployment of cellular service in the corresponding block right away. The possibility of deployment is estimated using a simple conservative method: the separation between TV and cellular signal must be at least 6 MHz. It is very likely a precise estimate according to OET Bulletin 74 will provide maps with more areas available for deployment.
Special thanks to Trip Ericson of RabbitEars.Info