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Spectrum Auction Design

  • Peter Cramton


Spectrum auctions are used by governments to assign and price licenses for wireless communications. The standard approach is the simultaneous ascending auction, in which many related lots are auctioned simultaneously in a sequence of rounds. I analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the approach with examples from US spectrum auctions. I then present a variation-the combinatorial clock auction-which has been adopted by the UK and many other countries, which addresses many of the problems of the simultaneous ascending auction while building on its strengths. The combinatorial clock auction is a simple dynamic auction in which bidders bid on packages of lots. Most importantly, the auction allows alternative technologies that require the spectrum to be organized in different ways to compete in a technology-neutral auction. In addition, the pricing rule and information policy are carefully tailored to mitigate gaming behavior. An activity rule based on revealed preference promotes price and assignment discovery throughout the clock stage of the auction. Truthful bidding is encouraged, which simplifies bidding and improves efficiency. Experimental tests and early auctions confirm the advantages of the approach. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

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Article provided by Springer & The Industrial Organization Society in its journal Review of Industrial Organization.

Volume (Year): 42 (2013)
Issue (Month): 2 (March)
Pages: 161-190

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Handle: RePEc:kap:revind:v:42:y:2013:i:2:p:161-190
DOI: 10.1007/s11151-013-9376-x
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  1. Cramton, Peter & Kwerel, Evan & Williams, John, 1998. "Efficient Relocation of Spectrum Incumbents," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(2), pages 647-75, October.
  2. Robert Day & Paul Milgrom, 2008. "Core-selecting package auctions," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 36(3), pages 393-407, March.
  3. Sandro Brusco & Giuseppe Lopomo, 2002. "Collusion via Signalling in Simultaneous Ascending Bid Auctions with Heterogeneous Objects, with and without Complementarities," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(2), pages 407-436.
  4. Paul Klemperer, 2004. "Introduction to Auctions: Theory and Practice," Introductory Chapters, in: Auctions: Theory and Practice Princeton University Press.
  5. Milgrom,Paul, 2004. "Putting Auction Theory to Work," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521536721, November.
  6. Levin, Dan & Kagel, John H & Richard, Jean-Francois, 1996. "Revenue Effects and Information Processing in English Common Value Auctions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 442-60, June.
  7. Cramton, Peter C, 1995. "Money Out of Thin Air: The Nationwide Narrowband PCS Auction," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4(2), pages 267-343, Summer.
  8. Peter Cramton, 1997. "The FCC Spectrum Auctions: An Early Assessment," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(3), pages 431-495, 09.
  9. Peter Cramton & Evan Kwerel & Gregory Rosston & Andrzej Skrzypacz, 2011. "Using Spectrum Auctions to Enhance Competition in Wireless Services," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(S4), pages S167 - S188.
  10. Lawrence M. Ausubel & Peter Cramton, 2004. "Auctioning Many Divisible Goods," Papers of Peter Cramton 04jeea, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 2004.
  11. Robert W. Day & S. Raghavan, 2007. "Fair Payments for Efficient Allocations in Public Sector Combinatorial Auctions," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 53(9), pages 1389-1406, September.
  12. Robert Day & Peter Cramton, 2008. "Quadratic Core-Selecting Payment Rules for Combinatorial Auctions," Papers of Peter Cramton 08qcspr, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 2012.
  13. Lawrence M. Ausubel & Peter Cramton & R. Preston McAfee & John McMillan, 1998. "Synergies in Wireless Telephony: Evidence from the Broadband PCS Auctions," Papers of Peter Cramton 97jems, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 09 Jun 1998.
  14. Kahn, Alfred E. & Cramton, Peter C. & Porter, Robert H. & Tabors, Richard D., 2001. "Uniform Pricing or Pay-as-Bid Pricing: A Dilemma for California and Beyond," The Electricity Journal, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 70-79, July.
  15. John McMillan, 1994. "Selling Spectrum Rights," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(3), pages 145-162, Summer.
  16. Lawrence M. Ausubel & Peter Cramton & Marek Pycia & Marzena Rostek & Marek Weretka, 2014. "Demand Reduction and Inefficiency in Multi-Unit Auctions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(4), pages 1366-1400.
  17. Marco Pagnozzi, 2010. "Are Speculators Unwelcome in Multi-object Auctions?," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 97-131, May.
  18. Lawrence M. Ausubel & Paul Milgrom, 2002. "Ascending Auctions with Package Bidding," Working Papers 02004, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  19. Paul Klemperer, 2004. "Auctions: Theory and Practice," Economics Series Working Papers 2004-W09, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  20. Lawrence M. Ausubel, 2004. "An Efficient Ascending-Bid Auction for Multiple Objects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1452-1475, December.
  21. Erdil, Aytek & Klemperer, Paul, 2009. "A New Payment Rule for Core-Selecting Package Auctions," CEPR Discussion Papers 7487, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  22. Peter Cramton & Andrzej Skrzypacz & Robert Wilson, 2007. "The 700 MHz Spectrum Auction: An Opportunity to Protect Competition In a Consolidating Industry," Papers of Peter Cramton 07c700mhz, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 2007.
  23. John H. Kagel & Yuanchuan Lien & Paul Milgrom, 2010. "Ascending Prices and Package Bidding: A Theoretical and Experimental Analysis," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 160-85, August.
  24. Lawrence M. Ausubel, 2006. "An Efficient Dynamic Auction for Heterogeneous Commodities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 602-629, June.
  25. Paul Milgrom, 2007. "Package Auctions and Exchanges," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(4), pages 935-965, 07.
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