How is an Auction Conducted?

Depending on the auction design, number of bidders, and the number of licenses being offered, an auction might run anywhere from one day to several weeks. Auctions are typically conducted Monday through Friday during normal business hours (Eastern Time). The first day of an auction generally opens with long bidding periods, typically two bidding rounds lasting one or two hours each, followed by round results. As the auction continues, the Commission generally increases the number of rounds per day and decreases the duration of the rounds. Bidders drop out of the auction when licenses in which they are interested exceed the value they are willing to pay. The auction typically continues until all bidding activity stops.

Browser-Based Bidding Systems

FCC auctions are conducted electronically, and are accessible over the Internet. The FCC Automated Auction System is accessible by anyone using a personal computer with an internet connection and a browser, such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer. (Bidders may also bid electronically through a dial-up network, as well as telephonically.) The system is state-of-the-art and is designed for ease of use. In fact, most operations can be performed by clicking a mouse button. A built-in help facility is also provided.

Bidding System Screen Shots

SMR Bidding System (pdf, 1.96 MB)
Package Bidding System (pdf, 12.37 MB)
The FCC recognizes the importance of protecting the privacy of participants' bids. The FCC Automated Auction System includes up to four levels of system security to ensure privacy of bidders' identities and their bidding activity while a bidding round is in progress.

Activity Rules

In a traditional real-time or continuous auction, bidders often wait until the last minute to place their bids. However, the FCC has developed activity rules to ensure that participants bid actively throughout the auction. Before an auction, each bidder must submit an upfront payment that determines its bidding eligibility in the auction. During each round of the auction, each bidder is required to bid on a specified portion of its maximum eligibility. If a bidder does not meet this requirement, it uses an activity rule waiver (if available) or loses eligibility.

Reviewing Round Results

Round results are released within approximately 15 minutes after each round closes. They are available for downloading, both to bidders and to the general public. Interested parties may perform detailed analysis by loading these data files into a spreadsheet program or the Auction Tracking Tool, which is provided by the FCC for most auctions.


At the conclusion of the auction, the Commission issues a public notice declaring the auction closed, identifying winning bidders, and specifying the amounts of down payments due. At that time, winning bidders are typically given ten business days to supplement their upfront payments to satisfy the license down payment requirement. By the same deadline, winning bidders must electronically submit a properly completed long-form application and required exhibits to the appropriate licensing bureau.


Wednesday, August 9, 2006