A Big Day For Mobile In The US?

The FCC’s auction of some nice 700 MHz spectrum licenses began last week — you’ll remember these as including the ones in which Google has been interested. In particular, the big G played a role in getting open-access requirements attached to the C block nationwide license, meaning that if bidding for it topped $4.6 billion, the winning bidder would have to follow certain rules to open its network to compatible third-party devices and services.

Today, that $4.6 billion barrier was breached, with the C block now bid up to $4.72 billion — meaning the open-access rules will be in force when the network using that license is launched. While the rules stopped short of mandating that the winning bidder sell wholesale network access to anybody who wants it, it will offer some legal backup to the big push for open that’s sweeping through the US mobile industry at the moment. Hopefully, it will also lead to a sea change among operators, and help encourage them to truly open up their networks and increase competition, so as to deliver more innovative services to consumers at better prices.

The bidders’ identities are kept secret until the end of the auction, but I’d guess Verizon is the leading bidder for this license; I’m sticking to my prognostication that Google doesn’t really want to win (and have to pay out all that cash. Given Verizon’s announced “open” policy, the open-access rules on the C block wouldn’t really be a big deal for it.

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