Takeoffs and Landings: Google Smartphone Sales Trending Up, FCC Auction Begins Closing Stages

Mobile Industry News for the Week of January 16, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auction for TV spectrum started its final stages this week. Bids for the freed up spectrum were lower than expected, a sign that carriers and other parties involved are managing tight budgets and are eager to invest in airwaves that have stronger data and transmission capabilities. In other news, Google’s Pixel smartphone sales are trending upwards, with reports that the company’s big advertising push is making a difference. The stories on our minds are below.

Carriers turn down airwaves — This week marked the final stages of the FCC auction, which has collected $18.2 billion in bids according to The Wall Street Journal. This particular auction included freed spectrum offerings from local TV station — overall, it has been a drawn out process with much weaker demand than expected. The Wall Street Journal article reports that this is likely because bidders aren’t interested in low-frequency television airwaves, and rather prefer airwaves with the ability to carry more data. This came as a surprise for many considering that the FCC’s auction in 2015 garnered $45 billion in bids. The identity of the winners will remain unknown for now, but major carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are expected to be involved. The meager bids this time around could be a sign that carriers are stretched thin and being extra cautious when it comes to investing their money in new wireless opportunities.

Google’s smartphone performs well — Google invested heavily in advertising its recently debuted smartphone Pixel for the holidays, and the efforts are starting to show results. Reports cited in Bloomberg show that Pixel devices made up 12.3 percent of phone activations for Verizon, with $386 million in estimated sales for the quarter. Aside from Google’s big ad spending (estimated at $109.8 million), analysts also speculate that Samsung’s recent phone recall gave Pixel a natural boost. As Apple smartphone sales continue to decrease, both Google’s Pixel and Project-Fi wireless service could make the company a strong contender in the telecom space.

What news stories are on your minds this week? We’d love to hear what stories you’re dialing into.