AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Dish Bidders in FCC Airwave Sale

  • Agency releases bidder list, which includes Liberty Global
  • FCC will buy TV airwaves and resell to mobile providers

Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc., Dish Network Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc. are among 104 companies that have applied to buy airwaves in a Federal Communications Commission this year.

In the sale set to begin March 29, the FCC will first buy airwaves voluntarily surrendered by television stations, and then resell the frequencies to mobile providers such as Verizon and AT&T, which face growing demand for data coverage on smartphones and other wireless devices. Estimates of the possible sale prices run into the billions of dollars.

Cable providers Comcast Corp. and Liberty Global Inc. also filed to be potential bidders, according to filings.

FCC officials have called the auction a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for TV companies to take in a payout and in many cases stay on the air by switching to new frequencies.

The large wireless-service providers are seeking airwaves to meet growing demand from users of mobile phones, tablet computers and other portable Internet-capable devices. Sprint Corp. has said it won’t be a bidder.

An airwaves sale that ended last year drew $44.9 billion in bids and attracted applications from 80 companies at a similar stage of preparation. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this year’s auction will bring in between $10 billion and $40 billion, with an expected value of $25 billion, after TV station owners have been paid. Those may include CBS Corp., Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc.’s station group and Comcast’s NBCUniversal.

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