Google plans to bid for wireless spectrum


NEW YORK -- In a long-anticipated announcement, Google said Friday that it will participate in the FCC's January auction to acquire wireless spectrum in the 700 MHz band.

The piece of spectrum that Google will bid on is called the C-Block and it is expected to sell for $4.6 billion. The deadline to apply for the auction, which begins Jan. 24, is Monday. Google is expected to square off against AT&T and Verizon Wireless in the auction.

Google had said that it probably would bid for the spectrum. The FCC added regulations in July that would ensure that the C-Block would go to an open network, a stipulation that aligns with Google's stated principles.

"We believe it's important to put our money where our principles are," Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said. "Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today's wireless world."

There had been speculation, though, that Google wouldn't make a bid and was just announcing its interest to ensure that the FCC would add the open network regulations. Some observers still think that Google will bid low to ensure that it doesn't win the costly spectrum.

Google, however, recently has made moves in the mobile arena in unveiling the new Android platform. This project, in line with Google's open standards, will make free mobile software available for use on phones with Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile signed on to be carriers in the U.S.

Verizon Wireless on Monday signaled its interest in the spectrum by announcing that it would open up its network for use by third-party devices and software by next year. Observers saw this as an appeal to the FCC, as well as a nod to Android, by the mobile carrier, which had been seen as protective of its network and had initially objected to the open network stipulations in the auction.