Top bidders put up a total of almost $2.78 billion Thursday in the opening rounds of the Federal Communications Commission's auction of U.S. government-owned airwaves.
The figure represents the highest bids received for five blocks of spectrum at the beginning of the auction, which is eventually expected to net the federal government at least $10 billion.
Companies qualified to bid include major carriers AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, as well as possible new competitors such as Google Inc., EchoStar Communications Corp. and Cablevision Systems Corp.
Identities of bidders will be kept secret, under FCC rules, until the entire auction ends.
Analysts say the major carriers could use the new spectrum to offer consumers more advanced services such as broadband access via mobile phones and wireless broadband to laptop computers.
The $2.78 billion worth of opening high bids included a $472-million offer for a closely watched part of the spectrum known as the "D" block, which will have to be shared with public safety agencies under FCC rules.
It also included an opening high bid of about $1.24 billion for the "C" block, which carries another condition requiring that it be open to all devices and software applications as long as the minimum price is met.