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The Federal Communications Commission's wireless spectrum auction has come to a close following 341 rounds of bidding. The FCC had hoped to raise $10.5 billion but the cost of supporting Americans' smartphone habit drove bids far higher than anyone anticipated.
A total of 70 different companies and organizations took part in the bidding process. At stake was more than 1,600 licenses to blocks of spectrum totaling 65MHz which garnered record bids of $44.9 billion.
While it is believed that AT&T and Verizon Wireless were among the top bidders, we won't know for sure until the FCC announces winners in the coming days. That hasn't stopped analysts from speculating, however.
Nomura Holdings Inc. analyst Adam Ilkowitz believes AT&T and Verizon spent roughly $15 billion each. In a separate note, he estimates that Dish Network may have spent upwards of $10 billion while T-Mobile likely shelled out around $3 billion.
Sprint, the nation's third largest wireless provider, didn't participate in the auction. That's likely because they already hold the industry's largest amount of spectrum although much of it is considered to be lower value.
Another auction is scheduled for 2016 in which television broadcasters will offer up a portion of their spectrum to wireless carriers. The auction was scheduled to take place last year but was postponed due to concerns regarding the impact the auction could have on TV stations.