Friday, September 28, 2012

FCC Readies First Incentive Auction for Repurposed TV Spectrum

The FCC voted to approve plans for the first incentive auction to repurpose broadcast spectrum for mobile broadband use.

Incentive auctions offer financial incentives to broadcasters to put their unused, licensed spectrum up for public auction, including giving broadcasters a portion of the auction proceeds.  The U.S. is the first nation to move ahead with incentive auctions for traditional TV spectrum.


The major outlines of the incentive auction are given as follow in the FCC's NPRM:

(1) a “reverse auction” in which broadcast television licensees submit bids to voluntarily relinquish
spectrum usage rights in exchange for payments.  The reverse auction consists of three broad issues: bid collection, determination of which bids are accepted, and determination of payment amounts to winners.

(2) a reorganization or “repacking” of the broadcast television bands in order to free up a portion of the ultra-high frequency (UHF) band for other uses. Repacking involves reorganizing the broadcast television bands so that the television stations that remain on the air after the incentive auction occupy a smaller portion of the UHF band, subject to interference and other constraints imposed by the Spectrum Act and treaties with Canada and Mexico.   The goal it to configure a portion of the UHF band into contiguous blocks of spectrum suitable for flexible use.


(3) a “forward auction” of initial licenses for flexible use of the newly available spectrum. The forward auction will resemble prior competitive bidding systems that the FCC has utilized,  except that the FCC will not know in advance the amount of spectrum we can make available in the forward auction, the specific frequencies that will be available and, perhaps, the geographic locations of such frequencies.

The FCC is now seeking comment on these issues.


600 MHz Band Plan. The FCC is also seeking comment on a 600 MHz band plan for reclaimed broadcast television spectrum using 5 megahertz blocks and with 6 megahertz guard bands between mobile broadband use and broadcast use.

The FCC said it is committed to make a substantial amount of spectrum available for unlicensed uses, including a significant portion that would be available on a uniform nationwide basis for the first time. This unlicensed spectrum would continue to include television white spaces.  In addition, the FCC is considering making the 6 MHz guard bands in the 600 MHz band plan available for unlicensed use, making channel 37 available for such use, and making two channels currently designated for wireless microphone use available for white space devices.


  • In February 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the "Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012", which also granted voluntary incentive auction authority to the FCC.




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