AT&T Wins Most Licenses in 3.45 GHz Auction

AT&T logo on Whitacre Tower
(Image credit: AT&T)

AT&T was the big winner in the FCC's 2.45 GHz 5G auction, with the largest gross total at $9,079,177,491 and the most licenses won at 1,624.

The assignment phase of the auction closed earlier this month following the clock phase, which ended in November.

Number two in gross winning bids was Dish, doing business as Weminuche LLC at $7,327,989,290. It was followed by T-Mobile in third at $2,898,418,995, Three Forty-Five Spectrum, LLC at number four with $1,379,489,483, and United States Cellular Corp. number five at $579,646,526.

The FCC auctioned 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3.45 GHz band that the Department of Defense said it was willing to give up/share so long as its operations--radar for example--are protected from interference. Winners can use the spectrum for either fixed or mobile service.

Congress mandated that the spectrum had to be auctioned by the end of 2021.

The auction had long ago met its reserve price of $14.775 billion, which is 110% of the cost of relocating incumbents, which Congress also mandated. The gross total will be whittled down a bit by tribal and small business bidding credits.

The 4,060 flexible-use 15-year renewable licenses auctioned comprise 10 spectrum blocks in each partial economic area (PEA), some with sharing requirements.

AT&T was the second-biggest winner in the C-Band spectrum auction last year at $23,406,860,839 for 1,621 licenses.

But the FCC was emphasizing that it was not just big winners.

The FCC said that 13 of the 23 winning bidders qualified as small businesses or ones that serve rural communities, with over a third of the top 100 markets having at least four winning bidders. "This broader range and distribution of winning bidders will increase competition by providing a diversity of wireless carriers with the mid-band spectrum resources needed to maintain American leadership in 5G," the FCC said.

"Today’s 3.45 GHz auction results demonstrate that the Commission’s pivot to mid-band spectrum for 5G was the right move,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “I am pleased to see that this auction also is creating opportunities for a wider variety of competitors, including small businesses and rural service providers. This is a direct result of the Commission’s efforts to structure this auction with diversity and competition front of mind." ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.