The US AWS Auction: The Traditional SMRA – A Long and Winding Road to the Finish

Fri Jan 30 13:57:38 EST 2015
By Richard Marsden and Jonathan Pike

It has been a long run. The FCC has been using variations of its standard "simultaneous multiple-round auction" (SMRA) format to implement spectrum auctions since 1994. The latest auction, for the AWS-III band, ended yesterday, raising nearly $45bn. Based on revenue alone, the auction was a huge success. However, from a governance perspective the auction was a nightmare -- especially for smaller bidders. In this short paper, we highlight some of the challenges encountered in the FCC's implementation of the standard SMRA and explain why they posed particular problems for smaller bidders. Looking forward, we expect that some of those challenges would be alleviated through the use of clock-style pricing instead.