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FCC's spectrum auction crawled over the $40 billion mark today

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December 3, 2014

The FCC’s Auction 97 proceedings rose above the $40 billion mark today, as overall activity slowed dramatically.

New bids over the past 4 rounds added just $600 million to the auction’s total. While still substantial, that was about just 48.4 percent of what it added in the previous four rounds. Following this morning’s round 46, total bids stood at more than $40.1 million. Round 46 witnessed 160 new bids that added nearly $151 million to the total.

The auction’s total is more than double of even the highest estimates put forth prior to its kick-off on November 13.

Overall bidding in the latest round didn't include any of the twenty most expensive licenses, with the J-Block license, centered on Atlanta, the priciest license receiving a new bid.

For its part, G-Block licenses centered on Sacramento, Calif., and Emmet, Mich., each received three new bids during the latest round, pushing their respective total prices to $66 million and $118,000, respectively.

Round 45 saw two new bids placed on the J-Block license centered on New York City, which pushed that license’s auction-leading price to nearly $2.7 billion.

The J-Block license centered on Los Angeles has not received a new bid in several rounds, but remained second on the price list at nearly $2.1 billion.

Outside of those two licenses attracting more than $2 billion in bids, so far three licenses have garnered more than $1 billion in bids each.

The I-Block centered on New York City ($1.3 billion). The H-Block was centered on New York City (at $1.3 billion) and the J-Block centered on Chicago (at $1.2 billion).

By comparison, the most expensive license in Auction 66, which included similar spectrum in the 1.7 and 2.1 GHz band, drew less than $500 million in winning bids.

To be sure, the paired licenses up for bid in Auction 97 include three 5×5 megahertz licenses (G-, H- and I-Blocks) and a single 10×10 megahertz license (J-Block).

The G-Block licenses are carved into commercial market area-sized licenses, which total 734 licenses covering the country.

The remaining blocks are economic area-sized that will total 176 licenses covering the U.S.

The 15 megahertz of unpaired wireless spectrum is split into two licenses, one with 5 megahertz of total spectrum parsed out on an EA basis, and the other with 10 megahertz of spectrum also in an EA configuration.

In a move to accelerate things, the FCC also announced that beginning Dec. 4th it would increase the number of bidding rounds from four to six per day, with each round cut in half from one hour to just 30 minutes.

Overall, winning bidders will not be announced until the auction ends, with the auction set to continue until there are no new bids placed in a round.

This week, London was host to the Internet of Things (IoT) Global Forum event, and it was well attended by a mix of businesses wishing to better understand how the world of IoT will impact their business model going forward.

Additionally, wireless and telecom operators along with various hardware/software vendors were pitching their wares. At the Forum, it was well apparent that there is still a lot of work to be done to clarify the definition of IoT.

As a rapidly growing area, there are many new market entrants and terms coming into play. Is it M2M or IoT, is one a subset of the other or do they have discrete differences?

It seemed like the presentations went back and forth between those two terms. Not to take away from any of the presentations, just to illustrate that the industry players themselves are still evolving on their terminology.

Some highlights from day one came in the form of various statistics and innovative visions for future services.

Machina Research kicked off the event talking about some opportunities and barriers for IoT. One of the key obstacles to consider is the challenge of roaming, especially in Europe where it is very easy to roam across several countries in a matter of hours' drive time.

The question also pertains to national roaming. Although there is regulation coming in the E.U. to eliminate roaming, this topic is still of concern to companies thinking about incorporating IoT and M2M technology into things that move, such as vehicles and shipping containers.

In fact, experts stated that about 74.3 percent of regions worldwide were unsure as to the implications of using permanent SIMs in IoT from a regulatory perspective.

Car maker Jaguar talked about the opportunity for IoT in the connected car to disrupt the current value chain in the automotive industry.

An example from Alibaba set the discussion in motion related to auto purchases in the China marketplace.

They are able to monitor purchases that indicate a baby has been born and depending on location predict that nine months later a child car seat will be purchased.

Now let’s take that to the next level. There are between 100 to 200 electronic control units in vehicles today. What if those were connected and shared information to a central database as to the weather conditions where each vehicle is located.

Predictive analysis of weather is a fun option, but what about predictive analysis of your vehicle’s performance and some advance warning of impending mechanical and maintenance issues. Is this helpful or an invasion of your privacy?

Some highlights from day two included more statistics and an idea for a new business model. The predictions for IoT (or M2M) growth in the next five years are simply staggering.

Tele2 Group talked about a PSFK report from earlier this year that found that about 95.8 percent of companies surveyed will be using IoT in their business in some way in the next three years.

However, on the flip side of the coin, he also referenced some stats from Fortinet saying that 69.1 percent of companies believe the utilization of IoT will open their infrastructure to additional security breaches.

About fifteen months after acquiring Alltel’s wireless operations, AT&T said today it's ready to launch its upgraded coverage for more than 50,000 Alltel subscribers in the state of Ohio.

The announcement was largely expected by several wireless industry analysts and a few reporters.

The rollout is expected to occur sometime next week.

Former Alltel subscribers will soon be able to access AT&T’s LTE network. The wireless carrier says its existing cell towers can now provide better indoor coverage and wider coverage areas in general.

AT&T added that the integration of former Alltel towers into its network has increased its number of towers in Alltel coverage areas in the state of Ohio by almost 40 percent.

In order to fully utilize the LTE network, AT&T is giving former Alltel subscribers comparable mobile handsets without extending or initiating new contracts.

Former Alltel customers were anticipating the network service switch to happen in mid-October with notifications from the carriers but the upgrade was delayed.

An AT&T spokeswoman says that the carrier still had additional improvements to the network it needed to make so it put off activating customers’ devices.

In January 2013, AT&T announced it was acquiring for $780 million Alltel assets including 700 MHz, 850 MHz and 1900 MHz band wireless spectrum along with network assets, retail stores and about 585,000 existing subscribers.

In addition to the network upgrade, AT&T transitioned over 17 Alltel retail locations in Ohio to AT&T stores.

In other mobile news

Nokia recently launched its N1 Android tablet, showing the world that the sale of its mobile division to Microsoft wasn't to be its impending death.

While the company agreed not to make phones anymore it is still going to be on smartphones thanks to its own new device, the Z Launcher.

Nokia was made famous by its easy-to-use platforms on its earliest mobiles, so why not try that again in a modern launcher context?

The Z Launcher is available now in beta version for Android, allowing anyone to take advantage of this intelligent home screen that adapts to your phone use.

We've given it a go to see if it really can learn and if it's smart enough to replace our current launcher.

The most striking feature on the Z Launcher beta has to be its use of hand written lettering to find certain things, called Scribble. For instance, if you're looking for Facebook, you simply write an F with your finger on the screen.

You're then presented with all F related items including apps, contacts and more all based on the regularity of your utilization. While this is great for finding what you use regularly, it's not so helpful if you're searching for something less used, trapping you in a bit of a loop instead.

With the F we were met with a guy we contact regularly, despite his name having no F letters. His job title, pulled in from somewhere online, has an F so that made him relevant.

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We did notice that when opening Twitter from a pull down notification the homescreen didn't register that as being opened and didn't leave the app on the homescreen. Something to fix after the beta version perhaps?

At this early stage the only customization, aside from icon moving, is found in the form of background images. While these can be changed from within Settings there isn't an option to change the top digital and analog clock.

Since these are just a few repeats of what's already at the top of the homepage, they seem like a waste of space that could be used to hold more app icons.

That said, once the Z Launcher learns more, it does also show alerts in the top section. So if you like a certain band it'll let you know when that is coming up.

Changing the four quick access apps along the bottom of the screen is easy. You simply find the app from a list, either by going into the apps or writing a letter, then press, hold and drag it onto the icon you wish to replace.

You're also able to hide notifications from the list of six apps commonly used which will just pull in another in its place.

While the Nokia Z Launcher site says it's currently in testing with the Nexus 5, Samsung Galaxy S3, S4 and S5, we're testing it using the LG G3 and it appears to be working fine.

Although with the Nexus 9 and 10, it's not currently available as far as we can see. Presumably it works best with Android 5.0 since that's what it will come with on the Nokia N1 tablet when that launches.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson's intention to put on hold his company's plans to deploy high-speed fiber-optic lines throughout the United States has raised the Federal Communications Commission's curiosity in the project.

Specifically, Stephenson got on the FCC's radar with comments he made last week. The FCC on Friday sent a letter to AT&T seeking more information about the company's fiber deployment plans, including the current rollout, the breakdown of the technology used and both its former and current plans on the number of households it plans to reach.

Stephenson was supposed to make his announcement on Wednesday, a day after President Obama came out in support of tougher regulations that would treat broadband services like a utility.

"We can't go out and invest in that kind of network without knowing the rules governing the network," Stephenson said.

The FCC added it would explore all of its options, including Obama's preference for placing broadband services under "Title II" regulations, which would give governments a say in how Internet service providers could price their offerings.

Proponents of the initiative say Title II represents the best way to ensure Net neutrality, or unbiased handling of all Internet traffic by Internet service providers.

AT&T and other ISPs have argued that the additional regulations would hurt innovation and capital investment.

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Source: The Federal Communications Commission.

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