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Google will definitely bid for US wireless spectrum

In the loose sense of the word

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Google is "gearing up to make a serious run at buying" a prime portion of the US wireless spectrum. And it's prepared to bid with nothing but its own money.

At least, that's the word from this morning's Wall Street Journal. The soon-to-be Murdoch-ized paper also said that Google is testing an "advanced wireless network" at its campus in Mountain View, California, just in case it decides to operate the spectrum on its own.

The Journal cites "people familiar with the matter." So we asked Google if would care to comment on whether all this is true, and it would seem that a bid is indeed on the way.

"Our goal is to make sure that American consumers have more choices in an open and competitive wireless world," reads a statement from the company. "We have already made great progress in achieving this outcome and expect more progress in the future. FCC rules require us to reveal our plans by December 3, and we fully intend to do so. In the meantime, we are making all the necessary preparations to become an applicant to bid in the auction."

Of course, this is hardly earth-shattering news. For months, Google has openly flirted with a bid for the so-called 700-MHz band, a swath of wireless spectrum due to be auctioned off by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in January. The big question is whether Google would actually run its own wireless network if it does win the auction.

Before the FCC laid down its its ground rules for the 700-MHz band, Google had called for a "wholesale requirement," which would force the winning bidder to share the spectrum with third party resellers, but the commission ended up rejecting this idea.

It would seem that Google was pushing for this wholesale requirement in part because it would have driven down the price the spectrum. In theory, big-name telcos like Verizon and AT&T would be less interested in bidding for the spectrum if they had to share it with others. But now that the wholesale idea is out the window, the winning bidder is welcome to keep the entire spectrum to itself. And that includes Google.

But the FCC did include an "open access requirement," which means that consumers will have free rein to attach any device and any application to the band. This certainly angered the big telcos - Verizon even launched an ill-fated legal attack against the FCC over the decision - but Google was chuffed. And now it's gonna lay down at least $4.6bn dollars in an effort to ensure that "American consumers have more choices in an open and competitive wireless world." Almost certainly. ®

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