FCC says wireless auction may be muted

The head of the Federal Communications Commission expressed concern that the credit crunch could hinder bidders in an upcoming government auction of wireless airwaves. Chairman Kevin Martin said that he was “concerned that the overall economic conditions could end up impacting the auction.”

Martin’s comments came less than a week after a key potential bidder called Frontline Wireless dropped out of the wireless spectrum auction. The auction is scheduled to begin on January 24 and has been expected to raise at least $10 billion for the US government from airwaves being returned by television broadcasters as they move to digital from analogue signals in early 2009. Martin said the auction must go forward since Congress has ordered the FCC to begin the auction by January 28. “We’re required by law to conduct the auction at this time, so we’ll go forward with it no matter what.”

Potential bidders in the auction include US wireless providers AT&T and Verizon Wireless, as well as Internet company Google, ventures involving EchoStar, Cablevision Systems, Qualcomm and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

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