EchoStar entering the wireless game?


WASHINGTON -- The big cell phone companies may be getting some competition from the nation's second-biggest satellite TV network as a company owned by EchoStar Communications won nearly enough licenses to create a nationwide wireless footprint.

Overseen by the FCC, the auction attracted a record $19.6 billion in bids for the frequencies broadcasters will vacate when they switch off analog TV signals next year.

Bidders for the frequencies were anonymous until bidding ended and the agency released the names Thursday.

AT&T and Verizon Wireless, the nation's two biggest cell phone carriers, bid a combined $16 billion of the record $19.6 billion pledged in the auction, according to an AP analysis of the results. Verizon bid $9.4 billion while AT&T bid $6.6 billion.

EchoStar bid $711 million for frequencies which could allow it to build a wireless network to compete with the cell phone companies which typically can offer wireless and wireline phone service along with a burgeoning subscription television service.

An EchoStar spokesman refused to divulge the company's plans for the frequencies.