Friday, February 01, 2008

Will Google go "all the way"?

Google Inc. succeeded in its push to force the winner of airwaves being sold by the U.S. government to open its network to any mobile device.

One bidder offered $4.71 billion for the biggest set of airwaves being auctioned, surpassing a $4.6 billion threshold that triggered so-called open-access rules, the Federal Communications Commission said today on its Web site. The agency didn't reveal which company made the bid.

The rules aim to boost consumer choice by requiring the winner of the so-called C-block airwaves to let any legal wireless handset or program use the network. Google, owner of the most popular Internet search engine, may now exit the auction after winning the conditions, said Jeff Lindsay, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York.

``What people don't know now is if Google will drop out of the bidding and allow someone else to win,'' Lindsay said today in an interview. ``It's a totally different scenario if Google goes all the way.''

The total value of all bids climbed 4.3 percent to $15.6 billion in the latest round, exceeding government projections and making the airwaves sale the largest ever in the U.S.

Google, AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless are among 214 companies participating in the auction, which includes 1,099 slices of spectrum. The C-block comprises about a third of the airwaves, which will become available when television broadcasters switch to digital signals in 2009.

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