FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is now hoping to hold the Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction in the middle of 2015.
As recent as August, the FCC had indicated it was on schedule to hold the auction in 2014. But in a blog post today, the timeline for the auction was extended to allow more time for policy decisions, developing auction procedures and testing the auction software.
“As any responsible manager knows, managing a complex undertaking such as this also requires an ongoing commitment to continuously and honestly assess its readiness and its project plan,” Wheeler wrote.
The Commission’s auction task force plans to present on the revised timeline at the FCC’s January meeting. Part of the plan includes releasing a Report and Order early next year and then having the Commission vote on the R&O in the spring of 2014.
A good deal of expedience had been placed on the auction for 600 MHz airwaves to meet the capacity demands of expanding networks as well as to fund FirstNet, a nationwide network for first responders, law enforcement and other officials.
Still, the news of the incentive auction being pushed to 2015 was greeted with measured responses from around the industry.
“I thank Chairman Wheeler for sharing the FCC’s revised timeline for the upcoming incentive auction,” CCA President and CEO Steven K. Berry said in a statement. “While additional spectrum is an immediate need, I agree it is even more important that the FCC take the time to get the design and rules of the auction right.”
Meanwhile, on its public policy blog, AT&T accepted the Commission’s revised schedule for the incentive auction.
“The enormous complexity of this task cannot be overstated. While AT&T is eager to see new spectrum allocations brought to market as soon as practical, we appreciate the enormity of the task the Commission faces and believe that it is essential that time be taken to get it right.”
The rulemaking process for the incentive auction has pitted the four major carriers against each other. Sprint and T-Mobile have both advocated limits on the amount of low-band spectrum licenses a carrier can hold, pointing to the abundance of 700 MHz airwaves both AT&T and Verizon possess. AT&T and Verizon have continually said that those potential limits could damage their ability to participate in the 600 MHz incentive auction and therefore possibly negatively impact the expected revenue.