Bids for 600-MHz spectrum reach $18.2 billion, topping TV broadcasters’ asking price.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) late on Wednesday announced this its long-running incentive auction will conclude at the end of the next round of bidding, due to take place next Monday.

Bidding by telcos on 600-MHz spectrum in the forward auction have reached $18.21 billion (€17.13 billion), topping the asking price set by TV broadcasters in the reverse auction. The price for the frequencies has also exceeded the threshold of $1.25 per MHz per head of population.

The final round of the auction, stage four, will continue until there is no excess demand in any market, after which it will move into the assignment phase, where participants can bid for specific blocks of spectrum.

"The world’s first spectrum incentive auction has delivered on its ambitious promise," said outgoing FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, in a statement. "We will repurpose 70 MHz of high-value, completely clear low-band spectrum for mobile broadband on a nationwide basis. On top of that, 14 MHz of new unlicensed spectrum – the test-bed for wireless innovation – will be available for consumer devices and new services."

In return for relinquishing their 600 MHz licences, TV broadcasters will collectively receive $10.05 billion. The net proceeds will fund a public safety network, with any left over going towards reducing the federal deficit.

The incentive kicked off in March 2016 with the reverse auction, during which broadcasters set the price at which they would sell their 600-MHz holdings.

The initial price set was $86.4 billion for 126 MHz, which was ambitious to say the least. Further rounds saw a reduction in the price and subsequently the amount of spectrum that would go under the hammer in the forward auction. The forward auction began in mid-August.

"There is still al long road ahead to successfully implement the post-auction transition of broadcast stations to their new channels and bring the new wireless and unlicensed spectrum to market. This will be an extremely important task for my successor and the new Commission; I wish them well," Wheeler said.

Indeed, Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States on Friday will signal the official end of Wheeler’s tenure as FCC chairman.