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Google can bid in wireless auction: regulators

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Communications regulators have cleared Google Inc GOOG.O to bid in an upcoming auction of coveted wireless airwaves, according to auction documents released by the Federal Communications Commission on Monday.

Google was among a list of potential bidders released by the FCC that have made a required up-front payment and have been cleared to take part in the high-stakes 700 megahertz wireless auction.

The auction is scheduled to begin on January 24 and expected to raise at least $10 billion for the U.S. government from airwaves being returned by television broadcasters as they move to digital from analog signals in early 2009.

As expected, the list of qualified bidders also included U.S. wireless providers AT&T Inc T.N and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc VZ.N and Vodafone Group Plc VOD.L, as well as ventures involving EchoStar Communications Corp DISH.O, Cablevision Systems Corp CVC.N, Qualcomm Inc QCOM.O and Microsoft Corp MSFT.O co-founder Paul Allen.

On a separate list of potential bidders that did not qualify for the auction was a venture affiliated with Frontline Wireless, a start-up that had proposed to build a national network using a block of spectrum to be shared with public safety agencies.

A Frontline official said last week that Frontline was “closed at this time” and declined further comment.

The 700-megahertz signals are valuable because they can go long distances and penetrate thick walls.

The spectrum is to be auctioned off in several different blocks, ranging from smaller regional blocks to large, nationwide ones.

Up-front payments for the spectrum licenses can range from several thousand dollars to more than $100 million, depending on the size of the license a company is seeking.

The auction is seen as a last opportunity for a new player to enter the wireless market. Google and other Silicon Valley leaders see the wireless spectrum as a way to create more open competition for mobile services and devices than those available on existing networks.

Editing by Andre Grenon