We will have to see whether revenue expectations for the big spectrum auction in India this fall are as overstated as they appear to be in the United States.
In India, the issue is that debt burdens incurred for expensive spectrum are dangerous at a time when growing price wars are virtually certain to slash revenue growth and profits.
In the U.S. market, the issue seems to be that mobile operators have multiple spectrum options, aside from spending heavily to acquire 600-MHz spectrum. The Federal Communications Commission, in fact, already has halted the auction after submission of about $23 billion worth of bids, where as much as $88 billion had been envisioned.
In the next stage of the auction process, TV broadcasters will be given a chance to lower the prices at which they are willing to sell their spectrum.
“Today’s auction results are unsurprising, albeit disappointing to some,” said Dan Hays, principal at PwC’s Strategy& consulting group. “At just over $23 [billion]in total forward auction proceeds, the first stage results are on the low end of pre-auction estimates and in line with the spending commitments put forward by the United States’ existing mobile network operators.”
The shift to small cell architectures is an extension of the methods traditionally used to reuse any amount of allocated spectrum. Beyond that, there is additional spectrum held by Dish Network that is expected to be put to use, eventually. As mobile operators shut down 2G and 3G networks, more bandwidth will be available.
And some would-be contestants might hope to acquire spectrum as part of any acquisitions of Sprint or T-Mobile US. Spectrum sharing will make more spectrum available in the 3.5-GHz band.
Also, the FCC is going to release 29 GHz of new spectrum in the millimeter bands, including about 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum.
The point is that there are a growing number of ways to find and use communications spectrum. All of it should add up to less of a premium for licensed spectrum, and therefore lower prices.