Google announced today that it will apply to participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s upcoming auction of wireless spectrum in the 700 megahertz (MHz) band.

As part of the nationally mandated transition to digital television, the 700 MHz spectrum auction — which begins January 24, 2008 — will free up spectrum airwaves for more efficient wireless Internet service for consumers. Advocacy by public interest groups and Google earlier this year helped ensure that regardless of which bidders win a key portion of the spectrum up for auction (the so-called “C Block”), they will be required to allow their users to download any software application they want on their mobile device, and to use any mobile devices they would like on that wireless network. The winner must ensure these rights for consumers if the reserve price of $4.6 billion for the C Block is met at auction.

“We believe it’s important to put our money where our principles are,” said Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google, in the press release. “Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today’s wireless world. No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet.”

Schmidt also praised the leadership of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and his fellow commissioners for adopting the new rights for consumers earlier this year.

Google’s formal application to participate in the 700 MHz auction will be filed with the FCC on Monday, December 3, 2007 — the required first step in the auction process. Google’s application does not include any partners.

Google’s press release here.

Chris Sacca, Google’s Head of Special Initiatives, explains in The Official Google Blog:

All of this means that, as much as we would like to offer a step-by-step account of what’s happening in the auction, the FCC’s rules prevent us from doing so until the auction ends early next year. So here’s a quick primer on how things will unfold:

• December 3: By Monday, would-be applicants must file their applications to participate in the auction (FCC Form 175), which remain confidential until the FCC makes them available.

• Mid-December: Once all the applications have been fully reviewed, the FCC will release a public list of eligible bidders in the auction. Each bidder must then make a monetary deposit no later than December 28, depending on which licenses they plan to bid on. The more spectrum blocks an applicant is deemed eligible to bid on, the greater the amount they must deposit.

• January 24, 2008: The auction begins, with each bidder using an electronic bidding process. Since this auction is anonymous (a rule that we think makes the auction more competitive and therefore better for consumers), the FCC will not publicly identify which parties have made which bid until after the auction is over.

• Bidding rounds: The auction bidding occurs in stages established by the FCC, with the likely number of rounds per day increasing as bidding activity decreases. The FCC announces results at the end of each round, including the highest bid at that point, the minimum acceptable bid for the following round, and the amounts of all bids placed during the round. The FCC does not disclose bidders’ names, and bidders are not allowed to disclose publicly whether they are still in the running or not.

• Auction end: The auction will end when there are no new bids and all the spectrum blocks have been sold (many experts believe this auction could last until March 2008). If the reserve price of any spectrum block is not met, the FCC will conduct a re-auction of that block. Following the end of the auction, the FCC announces which bidders have secured licenses to which pieces of spectrum and requires winning bidders to submit the balance of the payments for the licenses.

Full article here.