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Verizon Wins Spectrum, Everyone Else Loses

700MHz auction ends, Google proved to be a paper tiger

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Verizon won the FCC auction for the soon-to-be available wireless 700MHz wireless spectrum, in bidding that may have involved Google at some point in the process.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, as it applies to the potential for real game-changing wireless voice and data service.

Verizon and Vodafone’s joint venture Verizon Wireless handed over $4.74 billion for the rights to the spectrum. As analog television signals go dark in 2009, freeing up this spectrum, Verizon will be able to use it for additional services.

A Reuters report said that while Verizon ended up with the prized C block, AT&T snapped up 227 regional B licenses. The two biggest wireless providers in America got a little bit resource-richer.

You’ll pardon us for holding our applause. While the two companies could make this valuable spectrum into some truly amazing services, especially as it pertains to broadband Internet, we’re thinking the 700MHz spectrum could get the same treatment the Ark of the Covenant did at the end of Raiders: boxed up and filed away in a massive warehouse.

Only the prospect of Google or a similarly-minded company winning the spectrum excited us. Imagine if Google’s nascent Android mobile platform would have arrived at one of the big Asian manufacturing firms with specs for a 700MHz antenna in place.

Such a move would have needed to be complemented with the deployment of the infrastructure needed to support wireless signals. The winner could move on that at a measured pace, rolling the service out to densely populated areas where the 700MHz signal slides through concrete, recouping the investment by delivering ad-supported wireless Internet at a nominal monthly cost.

Cheap VoIP and Internet service, even in places where the term “dead zone” doesn’t mean a Cronenberg flick, that was the real promise of someone outside the two largest wireless monoliths getting the spectrum. Verizon and AT&T, with their lockstep pricing for voice and data plans, give us no optimism that 700MHz will be more than a Wikipedia entry in a couple of years.

The open applications and open devices requirements for the C block winner mean less than the electrons needed to render those words. Wireless customers already had these freedoms, they were just buried in the fine print. My how Verizon and AT&T must have laughed when FCC head Kevin Martin agreed to *impose* those requirements.

An argument could be made that now is too soon to say what the top two wireless companies will do with the licenses they have acquired. That Verizon and AT&T will use the spectrum to deliver voice and data at dramatically competitive prices, content to sit back and act as a utility, a dumb pipe providing a service.

If you believe in fantasy that much, we’d like to note that the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons will be released in June. At least that fantasy has a ship date.

Verizon Wins Spectrum, Everyone Else Loses
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