It took more than three years, but all of the 600 MHz spectrum sold as part of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's broadcast incentive auction has now been cleared so that it is ready for wireless use.
The FCC said July 13 that it successfully met its deadline for moving television stations off the auctioned spectrum. Over the course of 39 months, 987 full-power and Class A TV stations were reassigned to new TV channels in order to clear the way for new 600 MHz band for mobile broadband use. Nearly all of the 987 repacked TV stations transitioned off their pre-auction channels.
The FCC said that the remaining TV stations that have not yet transitioned due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic were given a "short extension" and will transition before the end of the summer. The agency also noted these remaining stations are currently located in the portion of the band allocated for broadcast television or the duplex gap, and none have delayed or will delay the deployment of wireless services in the new 600 MHz wireless band.
"The 600 MHz band is already being used to provide mobile broadband, including 5G service, to Americans across the country. And with the end of the repack, we'll see even broader and deeper deployment," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a July 13 statement.
During the 2017 broadcast incentive auction, broadcasters sold their spectrum, and it was eventually acquired by mobile network operators. To clear the bands into usable blocks, the FCC then had to repack broadcasters into remaining TV bands below Channel 37. All told, the auction made 84 MHz of low-band spectrum available for wireless use and yielded $19.8 billion in revenue. Roughly $10 billion went to broadcasters as incentive payments for giving up their spectrum, while $7 billion went to deficit reduction, and $1.75 billion was made available to repacked broadcasters to reimburse them for relocating to new channels.
The FCC said it will continue to work closely with stations to distribute reimbursements for relocation expenses and close out the $2.75 billion TV broadcaster relocation fund.