Verizon the big winner in spectrum auction

March 20, 2008: 4:12 PM ET

By Michal Lev-Ram

The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that Verizon Wireless was the biggest winner in the recently-closed government auction of 700MHz wireless spectrum.

FCC records show that Verizon bid an estimated $9.5 billion for the airwaves, which will become available next year and are well-suited for broadband services.

The company won the majority of large licenses in the coveted C block of the spectrum, in addition to a significant number of smaller licenses in the A and B blocks. A total of five blocks of spectrum were up for bid and the FCC took in $19.6 billion in the auction.

In a statement issued Thursday, Verizon (VZ) said it was "very pleased" with the results of the auction and that the new spectrum would help "grow our business and data revenues."

AT&T (T) won 227 small licenses and said that, combined with airwaves the company purchased earlier this year from a Providence, Rhode Island-based company called Aloha Partners, its 700MHz spectrum will now cover 200 top U.S. markets.

Google (GOOG), however, didn't win any licenses. Last year the search giant said it would put up the minimum bid for the C block portion of spectrum to ensure the success of a FCC requirement that the new network be open to any mobile device and not just those sanctioned by the carrier.

But one newcomer did manage to make the cut -- satellite television provider Dish Network (DISH) won enough licenses to provide a nearly nationwide network. According to Citigroup analyst Jason Bazinet, it's likely the company will use the spectrum to roll out a mobile video service.

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Michal Lev-Ram
Michal Lev-Ram
Writer, Fortune

Based in Silicon Valley, Michal Lev-Ram covers enterprise and mobile technologies for FORTUNE. Prior to joining FORTUNE, she wrote for CNNMoney, Fast Company, Popular Science and other business and technology publications. She was also a staff writer at Business 2.0 and holds a B.A. in journalism from San Francisco State University.

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