updated 12:25 pm EST, Thu January 31, 2008
700MHz Open Access Bid
Bidders in the auction for the 700MHz wireless space have reached the minimum bid necessary to require that a winner institutes open access on any wireless network they create, the US Federal Communications Commission has confirmed through its auction site. At least one bidder in the auction has pressed past the crucial $4.6 billion mark for the "C block" spectrum, with bids at the end of the 17th round of the auction just surpassing $4.7 billion. No end dates or bidding limits have been established for the auction, which is set to continue until bidding stops.
While bidders will remain anonymous until after the end of the auction due to anti-collaboration rules, the bid guarantees that any winner must allow any legal device and software on its network. Larger US carriers such as AT&T and Verizon at first vehemently opposed open access as a condition for the auction as they initially sought to maintain existing business models, which are often based around selling carrier-locked handsets at a discount to customers who sign long-term contracts.
The open rule has primarily been championed by Google, which argued that an unrestricted 700MHz band could result in a more competitive mobile Internet business than the largely closed system available today. The Mountain View, California firm is also believed to be testing 700MHz devices on its campus that would use the frequency for Internet access, a plan which is now more likely to become reality with the open access rule in effect.