Spectrum auctions: a rise and partial fall?
Jul 25, 2019 by Toby Youell


At PolicyTracker we regularly publish research reports on current spectrum topics.

But this summer we are also revisiting core tenets of spectrum management in a six-section Spectrum 101.

This week we are looking at spectrum assignments; specifically the rise and partial fall of spectrum auctions.

Our take is that the 1990s and 2000s saw a growing consensus that an auction is the least worst way of assigning spectrum. This followed some high profile failures arising from its predecessors: beauty contests and lotteries.

For sure, some auctions had strange results, but this is widely thought of as a function of their different designs.

But in time regulators have wondered if auctions were a bit too effective at raising revenue and worried about their unintended consequences.

And some of the most recent assignments include aspects of auctions, but also use aspects of beauty contests to take into account other factors, such as commitments to invest in networks.

This is our take, but we are interested in your views as spectrum experts. Please don’t hesitate to comment on this note, or any others in this series.

The PolicyTracker Spectrum 101

Why is spectrum management important?

What are the key events which have shaped the evolution of spectrum policy?

The pros and cons of spectrum auctions