updated 10:55 am EDT, Mon September 10, 2007
Apple to join FCC auction?
Apple is another contender for the FCC's auction of the 700MHz wireless spectrum, according to two anonymous sources. The company is said to be studying the consequences of bidding on January 16th; if it won, Apple would potentially have access to wireless faster than any current cellular or Wi-Fi technology, with the added benefit of longer range and the ability to pass through buildings and harsh weather. This could be particularly relevant to the company's hardware, since the iPhone would no longer be dependent on carriers such as AT&T, and virtually all other products could tap into a 700MHz network for data. Such services would have to wait until 2009, the scheduled year of death for analog TV, which currently holds the 700MHz range.
Several factors are said to act as a deterrent however, such as the $4.6 billion minimum bid, and the total of $9 billion required to win enough spectrum for a nationwide network. This would then have to be complemented by the building of infrastructure, plus divisions for handling subscribers and maintenance. The costs could harm Apple's margins, and discourage taking risks on the inventive products Apple is known for.
The company also faces stiff competition from potential bidders such as Google, DirecTV and Skype owner eBay. Google has long been considered one of the most serious bidders, partly due to rumors of a Google phone and the company's increasing involvement in the cellphone industry. Following the denial of wholesale resale terms it wanted, however, Google has become less prominent and may choose not to participate at all.