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Monday, September 18, 2006

AWS-1 Auction – Game Over

After 28 days and 161 rounds the mega-auction is over.

I’m sure there is a huge breath of relief in Germany as T-Mobile USA has secured effectively nationwide coverage in most cities of 20MHz at historically low prices. I expect to see an extremely aggressive build-out of the spectrum not only in current areas, but also to infill on current network dead spots where roaming costs are high. This time next year T-Mobile 3G network will be up and running in the major cities.

I’m also sure that Verizon Wireless will be extremely happy with the 4 mega-licenses they won (+ Hawaii + whole State coverage of Louisiana). I’m sure they will be bidding aggressively for the rest in the sparsely populated area of the USA in the 700MHz auction in 2008.

I’m a little baffled about the cable companies’ strategy and it will be interesting to see how the relationship with Sprint now works out in the long run.

Cingular will also be relatively happy although they haven’t spent (relatively) a lot of money.

It will be interesting to see what the Tier 2 companies, Leap Wireless and MetroPCS, do with their spectrum. They seem to building “value” brands and now have spectrum to roll-out in a lot more markets. My own suspicion is that if they are successful with the value strategy one of them will end up being acquired by Verizon Wireless in the long run and rolled out nationwide as the VZW value brand. This will only happen when the general growth in US wireless is over and the Euro multi-brand strategy is exported or perhaps one of them gets in severe financial trouble and the bargain is too tempting for Verizon Wireless.

Even more interesting will be what happens to EchoStar and DirectTV after their early exit, they still need a reverse link and their options are now severely reduced.

Also, I was surprised that Alltel Wireless was completely absent from the auction. Admittedly they are currently busy digesting Western Wireless, I suspect their short to medium strategy is for acquisitions to fill-in their gaps in coverage.

Anyway time for reflection and letting the dust settle before doing a full analysis. My immediate belief is that the spectrum was extremely cheap and the “spectrum speculators” will be the big winners in the medium term.