As I noted yesterday, other competitors to AC BidCo, AirCell's sister company, were out of the running: The tedious finale continues now, with 58 rounds of bidding over several days devolving to AirCell as the effective provisional winner of the valuable exclusive 3 MHz license (license C) and Space Data and LiveTV going back and forth for the remaining 1 MHz (license D). AC BidCo will pay $31,319,000 for that license. The 1 MHz license is now at $1,549,000.
Space Data has no waivers remaining while LiveTV has two. These two and AC BidCo are the only remaining eligible bidders, so we may see bids that go up by $75,000 in each round until one of the two companies cracks. It's not very important compared to the 3 MHz license, however.
The next step? The auction has to be finalized and money collected. Then the two-year clock starts ticking for Airfone to vacate exclusive use of the 4 MHz that was assigned. Verizon said that if they won the auction, they would have service ready to go within a year. Let's see how fast it works for them without this incentive. They fought hard to have two years to migrate, partly because their service is on thousands of planes, each of which must be touched by hand, and it's also found on many government planes, apparently, which will be harder to get to.
AirCell has certainly been talking to airlines, which must have received a lot of calls during the run-up to this auction. With carriers cash strapped, it'll take real incentives and a lot of capital on the part of AirCell to sign up domestic flights. But it's a given. There's no doubt that the lighter-footprint equipment required for air-to-ground broadband versus the satellite package will offer fewer concerns to carriers. AirCell has extensive experience in operating general aviation data services, so they should have an easy path to commercial aviation.
Now it's a waiting game: Waiting to hear about contracts, tests, timetables, and so forth. Round 59 opens tomorrow morning, and tomorrow looks likely to be the last day.
(The companies involved in the auction are prohibited from commenting until the auction is over, which is why you're not seeing comments from AirCell et al. on this site or elsewhere.)
Update: As of Round 66, LiveTV and Space Data are still slugging it out in tiny increments. LiveTV won round 66 at $2,311,000. Space Data has the slight advantage of bidding credits as a qualified smaller bidder. Because bid increments are in minimum five-percent moves, each subsequent bid has to be larger and larger. Space Data has no waivers remaining, so they must bid in each round, and there's no reason to not bid in each round with only one competitor. The next bid must be for about $115,000 higher than $2.3m.