Google to Bid in 700MHz Spectrum Auction

The search giant wants a chunk of the wireless spectrum that will become available in 2009.

Google intends to bid on wireless spectrum in the 700MHz band when the U.S. Federal Communications Commission begins auctioning that resource in late January, the company announced Friday.

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Google has previously expressed interest in the spectrum, which is being made available as U.S. television stations move to all-digital broadcasts by February 2009. Earlier this year, Google joined consumer and public-interest groups in calling for the FCC to impose open-access rules on part of the 62MHz of spectrum to be auctioned. In July, the FCC voted to require open-access rules, which would require the winning bidder to allow outside devices and applications on the network.

"We believe it's important to put our money where our principles are," Eric Schmidt, Google's chairman and CEO, said in a statement. "Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today's wireless world. No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet."

Google's recently acquired interest in wireless spectrum has led it in several directions. The company launched the Open Handset Alliance, an open-development platform for mobile phones, earlier this month.

Google headquarters sign
Google Headquarters

Google has also supported efforts to push Congress to pass net neutrality requirements, which would prohibit broadband providers from blocking or slowing Web content not approved by them. Google's interest in the spectrum came after AT&T and other large broadband providers expressed interest in recent years in getting Web-based businesses to pay more for their customers' use of the broadband networks.

Google will file an application to participate in the 700MHz auction on Monday, the company said in a news release. Google's application will not include any partners.

In July, Google promised the FCC that it would bid at least US$4.6 billion for a block of spectrum. The FCC later set a reserve price of $4.6 billion on the so-called C Block of spectrum, the 22MHz block where the commission required open access. If the reserve price isn't met, the FCC would re-auction the spectrum, presumably without the open-access rules.

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