With the AWS spectrum auction now in Stage 3, the end of the billion-dollar battle for wireless licences is in sight. If there isn’t enough activity Industry Canada could close the competition by the weekend if not the end of today.
“It’s going to end sooner than later,” Amit Kaminer, a research analyst at the telecommunications consultancy SeaBoard Group, said Thursday.
There was a point at which participants could play games with their bids. Now, “you have to really bid on something and be ready to pay the price,” he said. “It’s crunch time.”
The government will close the auction when the particpants have had enough and stop bidding. Things were going slow enough that yesterday it pushed the auction into the third stage after only two days of running under the Stage Two rules. Starting today there will be six half-hour rounds, with a hour break in between.
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One sign of things slowing down: In Wednesday’s last session, round 49, the bids went up by just over about $12.2 million over the previous round. By comparision, eight session earlier (on Tuesday) the bids suddenly went up by about $122 million in round 41.
Kaminer believes the pace of this morning’s early bidding will show if the participants have had enough. When the auction resumes today, participants will start having pushed the total of high bids on the 292 licences across the country to $3,521,806,112 after 49 rounds.
UPDATE: In today's first session, round 50, bids totalling $11.1 million were added, bringing the total to just over $3,532 million. In all there were 71 new bids, including 65 new high bids.
In round 51, there was another $11.5 million of bidding, suggesting the participants aren't exhausted yet. In round 52, action slowed to just over $8 million in new bids, while in round 53, ending at 2 p.m Eastern time, it had bounced back to $12.4 million. Round 54 saw $12.1 million added. Finally, the day ended with about $11 million in bids, bringing the total high bids after Thursday to just over $3.588 billion.
After Wednesday's bidding, Rogers Communications ($810.5 million), Telus ($712.4 million) and Bell Mobility ($617.6 million) were the top bidders overall, not unexpected for well-financed incumbents. Of the entrants bidding on spectrum set aside for newcomers, Quebec cabelco Videotron was the top licence bidder ($479.4 million) at the end of Wednesday, followed by a consortium lead by Toronto’s Globablive Wireless ($380.6 million) and a group lead by Toronto entrepreneur John Bitove called Data & Audio Visual Enterprises Wireless, or DAVE, ($221.6 million).
Yesterday, Industry Canada shifted the auction into its final segment, Stage 3, where the rules force those still in to have active bids on licences that equal the total all of their remaining points in each day's rounds. (An active bid is defined as a standing high bid from a previous round that no one has topped yet, or a new bid.) Until now they’ve been able to bid 75 or 90 per cent of their points depending on the stage. Each piece of spectrum is assigned points. Those who don't bid on licences equal to their remaining points lose a portion of them, unless they exercise one of their limited number of waivers, which restricts the number of licences they can bid on after that.