SoftBank crashes into America's broadband spectrum party, checkbook in hand

Sprint's sugar daddy could further push up prices

US carrier Sprint could be getting in on the upcoming FCC wireless spectrum auction after all.

According to a report from financial news service CTFN, SoftBank, based in Japan, is reportedly mulling a run at the upcoming 600MHz auction. The report claims SoftBank would form a new company that would bid on the spectrum space and then possibly sell or hand the spectrum rights over to Sprint.

The addition of another major player would add more financial firepower to what is already expected to be a fierce bidding process for the newly available spectrum space in the 600MHz band.

Selling off spectrum space previously dedicated to over-the-air TV, the incentive auction is expected to fetch as much as $45bn in total, with rights for frequencies in the most populous US cities selling for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Large telcos are expected to stump up large amounts of cash for the rights to use more spectrum space, so they can offer better mobile broadband speeds and coverage in lucrative markets. Of course, with Sprint joining the party, competition increases and bids could increase, costing networks more than they expected or hoped.

The incentive auction is set to take place later this year.

Last year, Sprint had said it wouldn't be entering the auction, with executives claiming the carrier already has more than enough radio space to push out its planned wireless broadband networks in the US.

The spectrum investments would be a welcome bit of good news for Sprint. In its last quarterly report [PDF], the carrier said that it would have to cut as much as $2bn from its budget as part of an effort to stabilize falling revenues. ®

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