FCC to Conduct H-Block Auctions By January 2014

More than a year before the deadline set by Congress
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The U.S. government said it would conduct auctions of licenses in the 1915-1920 MHz (Lower H Block) and 1995-2000 MHz (Upper H Block) by Jan. 14, 2014, more than a year before the deadline for those auctions set by Congress.

On July 29, the Federal Communications Commission posted a Federal Register notice — Auction of H Block Licenses in the 1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz Bands; Comment Sought on Competitive Bidding Procedures for Auction 96 — which said under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (P.L. 112–96) the FCC is to allocate spectrum in the H Block for commercial use using a system of competitive bidding no later than Feb. 23, 2015.

In addition, the FCC has decided that the bands will be auctioned through a system of competitive bidding rather than a straight-out sale or government allocation, and is therefore seeking comments on the bidding procedures planned for the January 2014 auction, the notice said.

Some of those procedures include using a “simultaneous multiple-round” auction format, the FCC said. An SMR auction offers all of those licenses for bid at the same time and consists of successive rounds in which eligible bidders may place bids, the commission said. Typically, the bidding will remain open on all licenses until the FCC stops the bidding on every license, according to the notice.

The FCC also proposes to incorporate a simple form of package bidding into the SMR auction; particularly, a form of bidding called “hierarchical package bidding” in which bidders would be able to bid on certain tiered, non-overlapping packages of licenses, as well as being able to bid on individual licenses.

HPB considerably simplifies bidder strategy when compared to some other forms of package bidding, the FCC said. The pricing rules used with HPB are transparent and make it clear to bidders how package bids are evaluated relative to individual bids, thereby making it easier for bidders interested in individual licenses to compete with bidders interested in packages, the commission said.

Click here to access the Federal Register notice.