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Auction 66 could shake up wireless industry, benefit consumers

Evan Blass

BusinessWeek writer Olga Kharif paints an interesting portrait of the potential state of the wireless industry following the government's unprecedented sale of spectrum this summer, called Auction 66, which could see a number of new players enter the voice and data market in the not-too-distant future. Following several years of industry consolidation, highlighted by Cingular picking up AT&T and Sprint grabbing Nextel, we could soon see companies that have traditionally delivered content in other fashions -- Time Warner, MySpace-owner News Corp., or Clearwire -- offer services that compete directly with the four major carriers. Several players, including Intel-backed Clearwire, Google-backed Earthlink, and a venture between Time Warner Cable, Sprint-Nextel, Comcast, Cox, and Advance/Newhouse Communications have already expressed interest in bidding for a slice of spectrum, while other bidders, which could include a Bill Gates- and Paul Allen-backed contender, will be revealed sometime next month. Unless the established carriers snatch up all the available spectrum, which is highly unlikely, fresh blood in the industry should bode well for consumers, who will likely benefit from lower prices, more services to choose from, and less restrictions on their bandwidth usage.

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