Friday, January 18, 2008

Google 700 MHz Auction: "Bid to Lose"?

Perhaps nobody outside Google really knows how serious the search giant will be in the auction for C block spectrum in the 700 MHz range. There remains some thinking that Google's primary objectives--getting more openness in wireless networks--are well on the way to being satisfied.

Using that line of thinking, Google will submit the minimum required bid, but nothing more, essentially "bidding to lose."

But one never knows. Given the current economic climate, and the failure of any takers for a smaller segment of spectrum that carried a requirement for public service services, the final auction price might not be as high as some had forecast just a year ago. If it appears prices might be low enough, even Google might decide it is worthwhile to play a while longer.

The 700 MHz spectrum is attractive for any number of reasons. It is the last chunk of spectrum likely to be made available for mobile use. And it's nice spectrum, with greater range than the 2.5 GHz spectrum used for much of today's mobile service. The signals also have greater ability to penetrate walls and buildings, a big advantage, as anybody who uses a mobile phone inside a building can attest.

Those signal propagation characteristics also might mean lower costs to construct the network. True, it can be argued that Google doesn't need to own that, or any other spectrum, to accomplish its mobile Web and mobile advertising objectives. But you never know. The auction might not require as much capital as many had thought just a short while ago. An opportunistic buy always is possible.

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