Verizon and AT&T Score in 700Mhz Auction

Amidst frenzied media coverage and hopes for changes to the nation’s wireless infrastructure, the 700MHz auction came to a close this week after raising $19.59 billion. Much like a political election, the incumbents won, and talk of change will likely remain just that — talk. Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon Communications and Vodafone, won the majority of the C block with a bid of $4.74 billion and AT&T picked up 227 licenses in the B block of regional licenses, the FCC said this afternoon.

Since the reserve price of $4.6 billion on the C block of spectrum was met, Verizon will have to operate an “open network,” although how open that will be remains to be seen. Tellingly, Verizon’s statement about the results makes no mention of an open network. In total Verizon spent $9.63 billion on spectrum licenses while AT&T spent $6.64 billion.

The D block of spectrum that had been reserved for public safety but failed to meet minimum bid requirements in this auction will be set aside, and the FCC will figure out what to do with it later according to a statement from the agency. Was any of this unexpected? No, but it’s still kind of a bitter moment for all those hopeful proponents of a more open cellular network.

Update: Other than the existing players walking away with the lion’s share of the licenses, it’s worth noting that Google didn’t win any bids, nor did Cablevision. However, Cox spent $300 million in bids for spectrum focused in geographic regions where it already has a presence. Frontier Wireless, a partner of EchoStar, spent $711.8 million for spectrum in the E block, which could be used for mobile television.

Also of note was CenturyTel spending $149 million for regional licenses and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Spectrum laying down $112.8 million. If you have a spaceship, you may as well own the airwaves.