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US 700Mhz auction raises $19.6bn

But winners yet to be announced

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The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has announced the end of the US 700MHz auction, but won't be saying who's snapped up the frequencies for another 10 days or so while they officially close the sale.

The delay is down to the lack of bids on the D block, which had a reserve of $1.6bn and an obligation to provide a network to which emergency responders would have priority access. That block didn't sell, so must be separated from the auction before the rest of the winners can be identified.

Eight regional licences in the A and B blocks also didn't sell, though 1090 did. The much-touted C block didn't end up in one buyer's hands but got split into 12 regional lumps, making it likely that the winners are existing operators looking to fill holes in their coverage, rather than new players wanting to deploy exciting new services.

Whoever won has deep pockets - the $19.592bn raised is more than the combined total the FCC has raised through auctions over the last 15 years, and almost twice the estimated price.

The FCC already has plans for the cash. Apparently, it's to be spent on "public safety and digital television transition initiatives", so it's digital set-top boxes all round then. ®

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