Two weeks ago, Canadian regulators accepted a winning C$5.1m bid from SkySurf Canada for air-ground spectrum for in-flight broadband: The Canadian firm bid a whopping C$3m above the second bidder, and only two firm ultimately submitted bids. SkySurf won 4 MHz of spectrum. The FCC awarded similar frequency back in June 2006 to Aircell (3 MHz) and JetBlue's LiveTV division (1 MHz) for $31m and $7m, respectively. The U.S. and Canadian bands are aligned.
In talking early this year with Aircell's CEO, the firm planned to create a partnership with the winning bidder. "Anybody who gets that license is doing so on the basis of forming a relationship with us where they operate the physical network in Canada," Jack Blumenstein said back in February. Blumenstein said that the rollout in Canada would likely be in 2010. He also noted that only 20 base stations would be required to serve all of content, because Aircell already had a number of near-border locations that could be turned north.
The bid price seems rather high, but that's clearly in expectation of the winner being part of a cross-border monopoly on this particular service by dint of owning the license. While Canada has a smaller population, there are plenty of aircraft crossing the country and traveling back and forth to the U.S.