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CBRS Auction Closes at $4.585 Billion

(Image credit: Future Media)

The FCC Tuesday (Aug. 25) concluded its first 5G midband spectrum auction, the CBRS auction (auction 105). The auction launched July 23.

Over 76 rounds, the auction grossed $4,585,663,345, or about the low middle of pre-auction estimates. Winning bids were placed on 20,625 of 22,631 licenses, the most licenses ever offered in one FCC auction, or more than 91.1% of the available licenses.

Related: FCC Launches First 5G Mid-Band Auction 

There were 271 eligible bidders, but the FCC won't identify who won what for "a few days." Among the eligible bidders were AT&T, Cox, Shenandoah Cable TV, USSC, and Windstream.

Sasha Javid, COO of BitPath and former top FCC auction official, suggests who bid what could be quite revealing, providing the answer to how much Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile/Sprint "are willing to pay for spectrum blocks that require frequency coordination and strict power limits?"

The FCC was auctioning 70 MHz worth of county-based Priority Access Licenses (PALs) in the 3550-3650 MHz band. Each license is for a 10 MHz unpaired channel.

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 is a banner day for American leadership in 5G and for American consumers," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "The 3.5 GHz auction has concluded, and I can say unequivocally:  It was a resounding success. The strong demand for licenses was the direct result of this Commission’s reforms to the rules for the 3.5 GHz band—reforms that would not have been possible without the leadership and hard work of my colleague, Commissioner Mike O’Rielly. This auction has been a key part of our 5G FAST Plan and our ongoing push to make more mid-band spectrum available for 5G.   look forward to this important spectrum being put to use quickly to provide service to the American people.  And I look forward to the Commission making available 280 more megahertz of mid-band spectrum for 5G in the C-band auction beginning on Dec. 8.”

Once the FCC identifies the winners, "we’ll see where licensees have created larger market areas by looking at contiguous counties and spectrum blocks," said Mark Gibson, director, business development, for CommScope. "This will help determine the extent to which licensees are interested in CMA-like or nationwide service. New licensees who want to put their spectrum to use will start deploying CBSDs and claiming their protected coverage in their respective counties. These protected coverage areas, known as PAL Protection Areas (PPAs), will be protected by the SAS from interference from other PPAs and from GAA operation."

Louis Peraertz, VP of policy for WISPA, the alliance of fixed wireless internet service providers, said the $4.585 billion is "a lot of shekels" and suggests "wholehearted confidence in the CBRS sharing model to find and better employ underutilized spectrum. Indications are emerging that the auction resulted in robust competition outside of the top 20 markets, far exceeding expectations. We hope and trust that those of our members who bid were successful. This participation reveals the growth and viability of the fixed wireless model in bringing Internet connectivity to the very hardest to reach Americans. Hungry consumers win. The digital divide becomes that much smaller. Congratulations, FCC and all the auction participants, on a job well done!”