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In January, 2008 the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened Auction 73 for the coveted 700 MHz wireless spectrum being vacated by analog television signals in February, 2009. Industry Canada launched its Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) auction in late May, 2008 in the 1700 MHz, 1900 MHz, and 2100 MHz (and currently unusable 5 MHz in the 1600 MHz spectrum) frequencies referred to as the 2 GHz frequency. Both auctions contained provisions that should lead to healthier competition and more choice for wireless subscribers.
A Tale of Two Spectrum Auctions
The first thing to say about the North American spectrum auctions is that they both netted each government a hefty chunk of change. The FCC grossed over $19.5 billion from Auction 73, and Industry Canada pulled in over $4.25 billion from the AWS auction. To put those numbers in perspective, the FCC had set a reserve of roughly $10 billion for its auction, and Industry Canada was widely expected to net around $1.5 billion for its spectrum. So the FCC nearly doubled, and Industry Canada nearly tripled expectations.