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Auction 73: Winding Down?

A closely watched auction of the airwaves needed to build a wireless network may be winding down — and the outcome bears faint resemblance to what analysts were expecting. For starters, the Federal Communications Commission has so far received nearly $19 billion in total bids, compared with $15 billion to $18 billion that Wall Street had forecast. What's more, an open wireless network expected to be built using a chunk of the spectrum being auction may look quite differently than expected previously.

A closely watched auction of the airwaves needed to build a wireless network may be winding down — and the outcome bears faint resemblance to what analysts were expecting. For starters, the Federal Communications Commission has so far received nearly $19 billion in total bids, compared with $15 billion to $18 billion that Wall Street had forecast.

What’s more the auction may not last nearly as long as some had thought. Lately, total bids are rising only by less than 0.1% from one round to the next (four to six rounds occur on a typical day). What’s more, on Feb. 6, the FCC began enforcing a new rule that should discourage auction participants from sitting out rounds and to encourage them to place higher bids. Last week, total bids were rising at double-digit percentages from round to round. Some say the FCC could end the auction as soon as this week. Previously, analysts had predicted the action could last as long as several months.