updated 3/20/2008 9:13:18 PM ET 2008-03-21T01:13:18

The nation's cell phone companies won big in a record-setting government airways auction, the Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday.

AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, the nation's two biggest cell phone carriers, bid a combined $16 billion of the record $19.6 billion pledged in the auction, according to an AP analysis of the results. Verizon Wireless bid $9.4 billion while AT&T Inc. bid $6.6 billion.

The results raised concern that the auction had failed to attract any new competitors to the cellular telephone market to challenge the dominant carriers.

Google Inc. was not among the winners, meaning the search engine giant will not be entering the wireless business.

One new entrant, however, Frontier Wireless LLC, which is owned by EchoStar Communications Inc., won nearly enough licenses to create a nationwide footprint.

The auction, overseen by the FCC, attracted a record $19.6 billion in bids. Bidders were anonymous, but the agency released the names Thursday.

Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. and British telecom giant Vodaphone Group, won nearly every license in the consumer-friendly "C block."

The spectrum, which encompasses about a third of the spectrum at auction, is subject to "open access" provisions pushed by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, meaning users of the network will be able to use whatever phones or software they wish.

Verizon won the regional licenses in the block cover every state with the exception of Alaska.

Google posted a package bid for the C block licenses early in the auction, assuring that the open-access provision would be put in place, but it was not enough to win.

Also Thursday, Martin said he had ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the failure of a block of airwaves to be used for a nationwide emergency communications network to attract a winning bidder.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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