Effect of FCC spectrum auction is years off

On September 7, 2012, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced "a detailed proposal for incentive auctions" for freeing up large swaths of spectrum currently leased by television networks and stations. Genachowski said:

"In freeing up licensed and unlicensed spectrum for wireless broadband, incentive auctions will drive faster speeds, greater capacity, and ubiquitous mobile coverage."


"The proposal would also free up a significant amount of unlicensed spectrum for innovative WiFi-like uses, and create the first uniform, national low-band unlicensed spectrum in any country."

However, Genachowski failed to mention that the process will probably take at least four or five years until the new spectrum actually serves consumer needs. For one thing, Genachowski was announcing a commission vote later this month, and it would take until at least mid-2013 until the comments and objections are processed.

According to analysts, the auction itself won't occur until 2014. Financial expert Paul Gallant of Guggenheim Partners told The Washington Post that it would "take an additional one to two years before the FCC finishes repacking TV stations that did not sell spectrum." The FCC, he explained , would need to repack - or move - spectrum of TV stations which would not sell, in order to create "a clean block of spectrum that is usable by the wireless operators."

"Under this timeline, wireless operators could begin using their new spectrum in the 2015-16 timeframe," Gallant told The Post.

Genachowski On Incentive Auction Proposal (FCC news release, Sep. 7, 2012)

FCC kick-starts auction plan, but airwaves won't hit your smartphone for years (Washington Post, 10, 2012)