Folks, we've topped 100 rounds: Cast your mind back a few weeks, when I thought this auction for the prized air-to-ground spectrum licenses would end quickly. I had hopes after Round 37, when AC BidCo (AirCell's sister company) effectively won the bidding for the important 3 MHz license. But at round 105, Space Data (free-floating airships with antennas) is still squaring off against JetBlue subsidiary LiveTV for the 1 MHz sliver. The bidding is up to $4.4m, and the FCC increased the number of bidding rounds up to 15 per day to move things along. Increments are a minimum of five percent, and both companies are just inching forward.
(Update: Round 120 finds the 1 MHz license residing at the moment in LiveTV's hands for $7m. The FCC is moving to 18 rounds per day starting tomorrow.)
Meanwhile, to pass the time, you can listen to a brief report from American Public Radio's Marketplace Morning Report in which I have a couple of soundbites on AirCell and AirFone (misspelled in the transcript). My point on AirFone is that Verizon will suddenly have a competitor via VoIP on laptops and via converged cell/Wi-Fi handsets. While they get a license until 2010 for operating phone service for which privilege they'll have to spend tens of millions to upgrade planes, they'll also have to contend with this very real alternative.
One thought is that Verizon and AirCell could partner on retrofitting planes as they won't be competing for the broadband side--or AirCell could buy the AirFone business outright. The two companies aren't allowed to talk under FCC rules for auctions yet, but I imagine various people will be in touch with other people's people as soon as the gavel slams down.