It took a while, and 261 rounds of bidding, but its over. Click here for the write-up from Wired.
The attractive thing about the 700 MHz spectrum that was freed up by the move to digital TV broadcasting is that transmissions at these frequencies pass through walls. The unusual thing about the “C Block” of this spectrum is that the FCC attached “open access” conditions to the license. This was at the behest of the computer industry, spearheaded by Google, who may even have made a bid on this block. But as the Wired story points out, Google had already won their victory with the imposition of the open access rules – winning the spectrum would have been more of a headache for them than losing it.
Don’t confuse the spectrum licensed in this auction with the White Spaces spectrum. The White Spaces spectrum is the spectrum that the TV broadcasters retained for their transition to digital transmissions in February 2009. The White Spaces issue is still unresolved by the FCC. The FCC is deliberating over whether to allow unlicensed use of the digital TV spectrum when it is not being used by a TV broadcast (hence “White Spaces.”) This use depends on effective functioning of “cognitive radio,” which lets transmitters sense by listening (and other means) when spectrum is available for use. If the FCC allows it, they still have to decide whether to allow only fixed broadband replacement like 802.22, or to allow “Personal and Portable” use as well.