AWS-3 Update: The Licensing Process Proceeds

The AWS-3 auction was a blockbuster success – 1, 611 new spectrum permit, 31 winning bidders, and more compared to $41 billion in net revenues–not to mention that it made available an additional 65 megahertz of spectrum for consumers’ mobile broadband use. The story of this historic auction is still being written as we undertake our review of the particular “long-form” license applications filed by winning bidders. We do not yet know if every winning bidder is qualified to receive licenses and bidding credits, which is why the Wifi Telecommunications Bureau is undertaking a comprehensive and comprehensive review of all apps.

Today, we released the second “Accepted for Filing” Community Notice in connection with the license apps filed by the winning bidders in the auction. This means that, following its preliminary review of the applications, including asking for additional information from some applicants, Bureau staff has determined that 9 more AWS-3 license applications are now complete, in addition to the applications that the Bureau staff previously accepted for submitting. Given the intense public desire for this process, it is important to understand what today’s community notice does and, perhaps more importantly, does not do.

Nowadays Accepted for Filing Public Observe is just that – a discover to the public that certain applications are now complete and available for public review. The Notice does not opine around the merits of any of the applications, neither does it make a finding that any of the applicants who have requested small business bidding credit are eligible for – or will certainly receive – them.

This step in our standard license program review procedure begins a newphase in our substantive review of the apps, in which the Bureau staff gives the community the opportunity to review the applications and submit Petitions to Deny any winning bidder’s application. The deadline for filing Petitions to Deny any of the nine applications made public nowadays is May 11, 2015. Within parallel, Bureau staff will carry on and rigorously assess applicants’ compliance along with Commission rules. If any Petitions to Deny are filed, they will be considered as part of our substantive review. We will consider each application on its own merits and make licensing and any bidding credit decisions based on the specific facts and totality associated with circumstances in the record.

The most challenging part of our review is therefore just starting. While we previously granted several uncontested applications representing $30 billion in winning bids, there are now 19 apps that are undergoing a thorough, substantive review by Bureau staff, and one leftover application that has not yet already been accepted for filing. The apps that seek small business bidding credit are the most complex, given that they details the nature of the applicant’s ownership and control structure, and require the review of the related corporate agreements that in some cases consist of a highly complex group of rights and obligations, including contracts pertaining to equity ownership, funding, shared bidding, and management services.

These are complex and essential matters, and we have a long way to go in our review before we achieve final conclusions on all of the apps. While it would be inappropriate to make any predictions or judgments about any particular application, it is certain that staff’s review of the applications will be demanding and methodical. At the end of this process we are going to issue licenses only to entities that meet our eligibility standards. Likewise, we will award bidding credits only to those applicants who we find meet the criteria under the Commission’s rules.

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