The Evolution of U.S. Spectrum Values Over Time
48 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2017 Last revised: 12 Feb 2018
Date Written: February 12, 2018
Using data on all FCC auctions of spectrum related to cellular services from 1997 to 2015 we attempt to identify intrinsic spectrum values from winning auction bids. Our analysis includes 15 auctions and close to 7,200 observations. We add two components to previous literature on this topic. First, we control for license and block specific auction rules. Second, we introduce two technological measures to separate out technological progress that effectively reduces spectrum scarcity from technological progress that increases demand for mobile applications. Previous papers have included simple time trends to reflect technological changes. Time trends are unable to distinguish across markets within the United States and conflate the effects of these two types of technological progress. Our results confirm previous theoretical and empirical findings for basic measures of demand such as population, population density, income levels, frequency levels, bandwidth and paired bands. We were surprised that 47 percent of all cellular licenses since 1997 have been won by small bidders: 42 percent were won using small bidder credits, 5 percent were won in set-aside/closed licenses, and 10 percent were won in closed licenses using bidding credits. Adjusting for the value of these licenses, this represents 27 percent of the real dollar value of these licenses. Our results further quantify the negative impact on headline winning bids when won using bidding credits. Increased spectral efficiency appears to be reducing spectrum scarcity as evidenced by its lowering of winning bids. Additionally, auction results confirm that the relative value of higher frequency spectrum is increasing over time.
Keywords: Spectrum, Spectrum Scarcity, Auctions, FCC, Auction Rules, Mobile Applications, Spectral Efficiency, Broadband Speeds, Closed Auctions, Small Bidders, Bid Shaving, The Google Effect
JEL Classification: L5, O3, K2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation