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FCC to auction off spectrum for US digital switchover

Analysts believe the valuable licences could sell for between $10-30 billion.

With the US scheduled to switch from analogue to digital television in 2009, the FCC is auctioning off its 700MHz wireless spectrum for use in data and broadcast applications.

Google is predicted to be the highest bidder in the auction with other major existing wireless companies. The sell-off could net the US government $10-30 billion (5-15 billion) according to current analyst estimates.

The UK is scheduled to begin its own switchover in 2008 with completion expected for 2012. A similar sell-off of the spectrum used for analogue TV in the UK is also planned.

"The switch is about efficient use of the spectrum. The future is digital and it's better to make the spectrum available to wireless rather than using it up on both analogue and digital," said Jan Dawson, analyst for Ovum.

Traditionally with auctions like these, the FCC would issue multiple individual licences, carving the spectrum up into portions. It is up to the FCC to establish the rules. The auction will be multi-round, where the highest bidders proceed and the lowest bidders are weeded out.

The FCC auction is set to take place at the end of January 2008.

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