CBRS Auction Bids Top $450 Million

After coming strong out of the blocks the FCC's first midband 5G auction (of CBRS licenses in the 3.5 GHz band) appears to have settled into a slow but steady pace, though one that could wind up delivering for the FCC, says one veteran auction executive. 

Related: Unpacking the CBRS Auction 

After tripling its $107,991,840 reserve price in the first, six-hour, round Thursday (July 2e), to close with net proceeds of $357,344,200, the auction has been progressing at a more measured pace in the two, two-hour rounds the FCC is now holding per day.  

After round three, the proceeds were $388,732,380, which ticked up to $424,882,023 after round four, both on Friday.  

As of the end of Monday's (July 27) first round, the total was $455,953,607. 

The FCC is auctioning 70 MHz worth of county-based Priority Access Licenses (PALs) (a whopping 22,631 of them) in the 3550-3650 MHz 93.5 GHz) band. It is the most-ever flexible-use licenses available in a single auction, the FCC said. Each license will be a 10 MHz unpaired channel. There are 271 qualified bidders. 

Currently, there are 1,184 counties where bidding demand for spectrum exceeds the supply. 

"With 271 qualified bidders and licenses starting cheap for county-level licenses, I guess that [demand] is not surprising,' says BitPath COO Sasha Javid. "If demand stays this robust, the FCC will be very happy." Javid is former FCC chief data officer and was legal advisor to the FCC Incentive Auction Task Force.  

The band is being shared by federal and non-federal users, with incumbents--Navy radar, for example--having the top priority, followed by PALs and then general authorized users (GAAs).  

"This represents the first auction of spectrum blocks under the FCC's new spectrum sharing regime where winners will be required to coordinate with the frequency coordinator to assign the specific channel on a dynamic basis," says Javid. "It also represents the first opportunity in many years for wireless providers to acquire valuable mid-band spectrum for 5G." 

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.