FHH has been following the FCC’s broadcast incentive auction, see the latest stories here and here. Now the auction moves to the next stage — where wireless participants will bid on specific spectrum blocks. This next step, which the Commission calls “assignment phase bidding” begins on March 6th.

The 600 MHz band plan is designed to provide both large and small bidders a fair opportunity to acquire spectrum; it consists of paired uplink and downlink bands offered in 5+5 megahertz blocks across 416 market areas called Partial Economic Areas [“PEAs”].

Bidders that won at least one generic block of paired spectrum in one PEA in the clock phase of the forward auction can take part in the assignment phase, according to the Public Notice  released this week by the Incentive Auction Task Force and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. Eligible companies can download their bidding options, which correspond with their earlier bids, from the agency’s website on February 21st.  The FCC will send bidders a link so they can log in to the assignment phase bidding system for a preview period. That way, they can also see the sequence and timing rounds for all PEAs, and decide what specific bidding rounds they want to participate in.

All the spectrum blocks are Category 1, which means they have minimal or no impairments under the band plan associated with the 84 megahertz clearing target, so the FCC can assign every winning bidder contiguous blocks of frequency-specific licenses.

The FCC is giving wireless bidders time to figure out the auction quirks. There will be a practice bidding round on February 22 and a mock auction on February 28. In the meantime, the agency has put together an online bidding tutorial; find that under the “Education” section of the Auction 1002 website: (www.fcc.gov/auctions/1002.)

The first round of bidding begins on March 6th, and is scheduled to end by March 30th. The news means a notice concerning what stations broadcasters sold and how much money they will receive will come out of the Commission in early April — before the NAB show later that month.