-- This article was written by Chri Nolter of The Deal
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler touted the field of companies and individuals that have signed up up to take part in a landmark wireless spectrum auction, in Congressional testimony on Tuesday, March 22. The incentive auction, which starts on March 29, will allow TV broadcasters to sell spectrum licenses to wireless carriers and other bidders, something that has never been done before.
"We are encouraged by the strong interest that we have seen both from broadcasters interested in selling their spectrum and the broad assortment of parties interested in buying it." Wheeler told the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
The list of applicants is long and, in places, perplexing. In addition to Verizon Communications (VZ), AT&T (T) and T-Mobile USA (TMUS), the group includes a number of companies and individuals who registered under obscure or even oddball names.
Determining that Liberty Spectrum Inc. referred to John Malone's Liberty Global plc (LBTYA) may not have required great sleuthing. (Liberty Global reportedly has decided not to submit a bid, but did not immediately respond to a query.) CC Wireless Investment LLC provided an alliterative clue that it is bidding on behalf of Comcast (CMSCA).
Identifying the parties behind ParkerB.com Wireless LLC, however, is bit more challenging.
On Monday, the FCC opened its database of the applicants' backers, allowing greater transparency into the field of potential bidders.
Trey Hanbury of Hogan Lovells in Washington sifted through the data to provide a list.
Mystery bidder ParkerB.com Wireless has backing from Charlie Ergen's Dish Network (DISH), which has used government auctions and bankruptcy court sales to buy up spectrum rights. The name led Wells Fargo Security LLC analyst Marci Ryvicker to question Ergen's word choice in a report on the incentive auction. "ParkerB.com Wireless for DISH?" she asked.
Ryvicker also cited the "sheer number of applicants" for the incentive auction. The FCC's blockbuster auction of advanced wireless services spectrum last year raised more than $40 billion, and drew 70 qualified bidders. More than 100 parties applied for the incentive auction, although, like Liberty perhaps, some may not actually submit bids.
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