$19.8 billion airwaves auction may mean better cell service

People pass by a T Mobile store in the Brooklyn borough of New York

People pass by a T Mobile store in the Brooklyn borough of New York

Industry speculation has focused on a possible T-Mobile US merger with Sprint (S), although regulators may still be opposed to the third and fourth biggest wireless firms combining. Dish Network, which already sits atop a pile of mid-range spectrum and has announced its intentions to build an NB-IoT network, committed to spend $6.2 billion. This doesn't mean the carrier's service will improve over night, but it does give T-Mobile the opportunity to blanket the entire nation in LTE coverage.

It will take up to 39 months to relocate all the stations to new frequencies and channels, the Commission said, but the process is set to begin as early as November.

The FCC today announced the results of the Reverse and Forward auctions of its Broadcast Incentive Auction.

In addition to providing better communication through walls and over long distances, more low-band spectrum in the 600 MHz range will enable wireless service providers to ease congestion and lay the groundwork for 5G connectivity, according to the FCC.

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Another big victor in the auctions was Dell CEO Michael Dell, who was able to turn around his investments in small broadcast TV stations for a sizable profit.

It's not just about which frequency you own, but how much of it you have. The 600MHz band is largely what was up for grabs in this particular auction, and traditionally it has been used for TV signals. Each band has 5MHz of upload and 5MHz of download capacity, with seven total bands available.

With all of this 600MHz spectrum, T-Mobile basically has the entire country covered.

Where did the spectrum magically come from? Those broadcasters go off the air or move to new channels. It was a long and tedious process, and it isn't almost done yet. Other stations will be affected, too, and roughly 1,000 will have to move channels over the next few years.

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Will my region be getting service? .

"The FCC and Congress should be commended for facilitating this first-of-its-kind auction and ensuring that competitive carriers were able to acquire additional spectrum to serve rural and remote areas of the United States", said CCA President Steven K. Berry.

Those smaller carriers simply must continue to leverage new spectrum to compete with their bigger rivals, of course. In 2011, those companies sold the spectrum to Verizon for $3.6 billion in return for the rights to resell Verizon's network under their own brands. Television broadcasters that gave up portions of their low-band spectrum for auction will receive just over $10 billion in proceeds while the USA government plans to use more than $7 billion of the remaining proceeds to reduce the federal deficit.

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