As happened in Stage 2, today's opening of the forward auction component of Stage 3 ended after only one round, moving us on to the beginning of Stage 4 a week from tomorrow. Since Stages 2 and 3 differed in size by only one TV channel, this result probably didn't surprise anyone.
We now have three data points for both the reverse (broadcaster) and forward (wireless) participants in FCC Auction 1000. Let's take a look at these data points graphed apples-to-apples as dollars bid per MHz sold (a previous post from Dec. 3rd graphed only the reverse auction side as dollars bid per MHz targeted for sale):
In this chart, the x-axis displays the various possible clearance targets from 42 to 126 MHz (Stage 4 will be 84 MHz, Stage 3 was 108 MHz). The y-axis shows the amounts bid per cleared MHz in the reverse and forward auctions. The orange dots represent the reverse auction data points and trend lines. The gray dots represent the forward auction data points and trend lines. The gaps between the two auction components are evident.
This chart does not include the approximately $2B that the forward auction needs to add to the reverse auction to reach the final stage rule. That addition moves the intersection of these two lines -- the plausible final stage rule met -- up a bit from what you see here.
There is, of course, no law of nature that says these trend lines will not change direction in the next bidding round; it only shows what's happened in the first three stages. The steep decline we've seen in broadcaster compensation could abate and the wireless bids could increase more significantly. But if they keep their present course, we're in for an interesting Stage 4.