Close-up of a communications tower
Close-up of a communications tower - 
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Scott Jagow: There's a much-awaited auction today in Washington. What's up for sale is something you can't see and you can't touch: wireless spectrum. This auction is probably going to change the cell-phone industry as we know it. Here's Lisa Napoli.

Lisa Napoli: The TV industry converts to digital in 2009. That'll free up powerful airwaves for the government to auction off. And unlike bidding on e-Bay for that pair of shoes you like, this auction could drag on for up to two months.

Glenn Fleishman: We're all going to be handicapping it until, you know, whichever horse crosses the line when the FCC announces the auction is over and certifies it.

That's wireless industry analyst Glenn Fleishman. He says the race for the spectrum includes the usual suspects -- the mobile companies. Newcomers to the industry, like Google, are lining up as well.

Deloitte analyst Carol Mattey says though we don't know who'll win the bidding war, there is one thing that's clear:

Carol Mattey: It will have a direct impact on the American consumer at the end of the day.

Because whoever wins the spectrum gets the coveted airwaves that will improve phone and data service.

Uncle Sam wins, too: The government's expected to raise more than $10 billion from the auction.

In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.