Today's bidding up to round 68 produced no final winner: The FCC's auction of four precious megahertz (MHz) of 800 MHz band spectrum for air-to-ground data services for commercial aviation slogs on. Today, we saw 10 rounds of bidding that resulted in no clear winner. AirCell has technically won their license for 3 MHz of broadband (see yesterday's report). LiveTV (JetBlue subsidiary) and Space Data (stratospheric balloon-based wireless transceivers) are fighting it out increment by increment for the remaining 1 MHz license. The provisional winning bidder is LiveTV at $2.6m right now.
In the final round today, round 68, LiveTV's bid didn't budge, which I found odd. Only LiveTV and Space Data are bidding, and Space Data has run out of waivers that allow them to sit out a round of bidding while they contemplate their navel, their finances, or the tedium of this end game.
What they did as an interesting strategy was put in a higher bid for a different 1 MHz license. Due to the auction rules, that bid counted as a valid one and was considered, because there are three putative pairs of licenses on the block, but only one pair wins--the pair with the highest gross dollar value for both licenses in the set. By bidding on license E in the E/F pair, they retained their eligibility for another round.
Space Data is a small firm that qualifies for 25 percent bidding credits--they pay just 75 percent of their gross bid if they win. LiveTV may have bid the odd increment to $2.6m because the next higher bid--a minimum of $2.75 gross, is over $2m net for Space Data. I can only speculate on the cause, because firms aren't allowed to comment on the bidding during the auction. Space Data may be looking into whether they can stretch beyond $2m.
Bidding continues tomorrow with round 69, and we'll get the answer then.