March 23, 2008

Verizon, AT&T dominate US airwaves auction

Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc, the two largest US mobile phone companies, grabbed the lion's share of a $19.12 billion auction of airwaves being vacated by television broadcasters.

Verizon and AT&T won more than $16 billion of licenses, according to auction results released on Thursday. They plan to use the airwaves to enhance existing voice and data services, as well as underpin a new wave of wireless technologies.

The possibility of a nationwide video network was raised by a $711 million slice of the 700 megahertz airwaves being won by Frontier Wireless, a partner of satellite television operation DISH Network Corp. DISH declined to comment.

But No. 2 wireless provider Verizon and No. 1-ranked AT&T dominated the Federal Communications Commission auction that started Jan. 24 and ended Tuesday after 260 round of bidding.

"It means that the two big guys just got much bigger," said Rebecca Arbogast, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus.

Verizon Wireless, a joint venture with Vodafone Group Plc, won the biggest nationwide block of spectrum, with a $4.74 billion bid that trumped $4.71 billion offered by Internet leader Google Inc, FCC officials said.