Wireless Spectrum Bidders Put Down Billions

The FCC just released a list of 168 qualified bidders for the AWS spectrum auction coming up on August 9th, and also announced that the process will not involve the controversial blind bidding. We’ve been following the companies interested in bidding pretty closely, and there were a few surprises in the FCC filings, including a group tied to Rupert Murdoch, DirecTV and Echostar, which put down almost a billion dollars that it can use to bid on spectrum.

Wireless DBS, the consortium tied to Echostar, DirecTV, News Corp, News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch and Echostar’s Charles Ergen, qualified to bid and paid one of the largest upfront payments out of the list of interested bidders, of $972.55 million. The group’s auction plans might involve WiMAX, and prove to be crucial to these companies future as triple play becomes common place. (The upfront payment is refundable if the company doesn’t win the specturm it desires, but could be an indicator of how much the companies are willing to spend.)

The cable consortium SpectrumCo, tied to cable companies Comcast, Cox, and Time Warner Cable and Comcast CEO and Chairman Brian Roberts, among others, qualified to bid and put down another large upfront payment of $637.71 million. Other cable groups like the Washington Post’s Cable One qualified and paid an upfront payment of $3.5 million. The Dolan Family, tied to Charles Dolan, Cablevision’s Chairman, qualified and paid an upfront fee of $149.98 million.

Most of the largest U.S. phone companies qualified. T-Mobile paid an upfront fee of $583.52 million, Cingular put down $500 million, and a company tied to Verizon paid an upfront fee of $383.34 million.

The company tied to Paul Allen, Bend Cable Communications, that we previously profiled, qualified to bid, and paid an upfront fee of $176,000. At least four companies backed by spectrum speculator “Super Mario” Gabelli qualified to bid, paid a total of $3 million in upfront payments. Controversial wireless bidder Allen Salmasi and Nextwave Telecom, qualified to bid through a company called AWS Wireless, and that group put down $142.83 million.

The group called POP Wireless, backed by BPL company Current Communications, which is funded by Google and Earthlink, that we profiled earlier, was listed as “not qualified to bid.” We’ll follow up with more on the upcoming auction before the big day.