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Google Formally Enters 700 MHz Auction

In recent months, Internet giant Google has repeatedly indicated its interest in the upcoming FCC auction for spectrum in the 700 MHz range, first saying it would guarantee a minimum bid of $4.6 billion if certain principles of “openness” were imposed on the spectrum, then—when the FCC only made a partial commitment to openness on the “C block” portion of the auction—indicating it might bid on the spectrum itself, and, if it won, mandate the openness requirements it believes are necessary to the development of nationwide wireless broadband.

Although no one really believes Google is looking to set itself up as the operator of a mobile network, today the company formally announced its intentions to bid in the 700 MHz spectrum auction. It’s formal application will be filed with the FCC on Monday, December 3, and will not include any partners: Google it flying solo in its efforts.

“We believe it’s important to put our money where our principles are,” said Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt, 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.”

The 700 MHz spectrum block is part of the mandated transition from analog to digital television; once analog television signals are shut off in the United States (slated for February 17, 2009), portion of the airwave spectrum freed up will be available to mobile data services. Google believes it is in the public interest at consumers be able to use any application and any device in these spectrum ranges, in order for the U.S. to develop a truly innovative and competitive wireless Internet and data services industry. The alternative is much like today’s balkanized mobile landscape, where phones and applications are typically locked into particular private networks and operators.

The December 3 filing deadline also marks the start date for the FCC’s anti-collusion rules about the bidding process, which means parties participating in the auction from discussing their bidding strategies and the process. As a result, the public isn’t likely to hear much about the spectrum auction until it concludes, likely in March 2008. The auction formally launches January 24, 2008.

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