8 Things to Know About the 700MHz Auction

The 700MHz auction kicks off today, and like kids waiting for Santa Claus, the technology and business publications are tense with anticipation. But FCC chairman Kevin Martin is keeping a lid on this auction, rather than post periodic updates as was done in the AWS auction in 2006.

While you wait to learn who gets the goods who gets a lump of coal, here’s a quick list of everything you need to know about the upcoming auction and why it matters. Check out all the links, because the bidding doesn’t conclude until March 24 and down payments aren’t due until April 11. You’ve got time.

  • Setting the rules for this auction took a lot of time — and lobbying.
  • There are a lot of bidders: Out of the 214 of them, the big ones to watch are AT&T, Verizon and Google. Interesting no shows are Sprint Nextel and Time Warner.
  • It costs a lot to bid: Reserves are set high at $10 billion, but several people think that the current economic crisis might make it hard for those reserves to be met. Heck even Google has seen $16.15 billion lopped of its market cap so far this week.
  • Already some have failed. Both Frontline Wireless and Cyren Call, both of which were going after the “D” block of spectrum and its heavy load of public safety requirements, have already bailed.
  • Google is bidding, but may not be playing to win against the carriers.
  • The winners have to create an open network. The dream of having a network that would allow any device onto it is still alive.
  • Or maybe not. Om would like to see the spectrum become unlicensed and treated much like Wi-Fi is today for it to be truly open.

And like childhood obesity, short attention spans and the general decline of Western Civilization, you can blame all of this controversy on television — the shift from analog to digital TV signals, to be exact.