US communications regulator, the FCC, has delayed the forthcoming auction of 700MHz spectrum to give interested parties more time to pull a plan together.

Auction 73 will now take place on January 24, 2008, eight days later than originally planned. Bidders must apply for the auctions between November 19 and December 3.

The FCC has set a $10.4bn reserve on the auction and much to the chagrin of Verizon, the regulator has maintained open access rules for the so called ‘C block’ of spectrum.

Last month, Verizon Wireless took the FCC to court over the open access amendments to the licensing conditions. In August, the FCC bowed to pressure from a number of open access proponents, including Google, and revised its 700MHz band plan and service rules to facilitate the availability of “new and innovative wireless broadband services for consumers.”

Although the FCC stopped short of including all of the demands cited by open access proponents, under the compromise rules companies that buy the spectrum will have to let customers use any device of their choice on the network, and download and access any application, provided they meet certain requirements.

But Verizon is not happy with the amendments and is suing the Commission over a change in the rules it believes is “arbitrary and capricious, unsupported by substantial evidence and otherwise contrary to law.”

Google, on the other hand, has said that it is prepared to spend up to $4.6bn to secure itself a chunk of the spectrum. The web giant is one of the biggest backers of open access and is calling for more competition in the broadband space.

The 700MHz band of radio spectrum, is currently occupied by television broadcasters but will be refarmed and auctioned off as part of the switchover to digital broadcasting.

Earlier this week, US cellco AT&T paid out $2.5bn for a swathe of spectrum in the 700MHz band, positioning the carrier to offer new data services such as mobile TV.