The FCC's Advanced Wireless Services spectrum auction is chugging right along, with bidding up to a total of nearly $9 billion after Tuesday's rounds. There's not been much going on beyond the usual round-by-round one-upping between the major players, with Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile leading the way, but Tuesday did see what essentially amounts to the exit of satellite providers DirecTV and Echostar from the auction. The companies, which had joined together to bid, had made a lot of noise before the auction about their wireless broadband plans, but apparently finally realized that the billion dollars they were talking about spending wouldn't get them very far, with bids on the 10 MHz regional licenses taking the total for nationwide coverage over $4 billion. So what's next for the satellite companies? They could wait until next year and bid on 700 MHz spectrum, but that won't be available for use until 2009, and could fetch an even higher price than the AWS spectrum, since it's regarded as better. What's more likely is that they'll strike up a partnership with a wireless broadband provider -- rumors about a deal with Clearwire have been fairly persistent.