FCC 24 GHz Spectrum Auction Nears $1B in Proceeds

The FCC's auction of continues to rake in the bucks, at $926.3 million already well topping the take from the previous 28 GHz auction millimeter-wave auction--the FCC's first-ever--after only six-plus days of bidding--the 28 GHz auction drew a little over $700 million in over nine weeks of bidding.

New York and L.A. continue to lead, with bids on licenses there of $23,206,000 and $17,855,000, respectively, with Chicago in distant third with $8,624,000.

The millimeter-wave (high-band) auction opened March 14 and is being held in two phases. Initial bidding (clock phase) is on generic spectrum, with a follow-on auction (assignment phase) among the winners for specific frequencies.

Related: FCC Launches Latest 5G Auction

The clock auction means the FCC continues to raise prices automatically after each round, so long as there is more demand than supply, until there are not bidders left, high bidder at that point wins.

Currently--after round 18--there are 124 license blocks where the price is increasing after each round because demand exceeds supply. Of the remaining blocks--two blocks in each Partial economic area--either the demand equals supply (644) or is less (76), so the price does not go up in the next round.

Bidding is currently in three, one-hour rounds, but the FCC could boost the number of rounds or shorten their duration if and when it wants to goose the bidding.

The initial license periods are not to exceed 10 years. There are also build-out requirements—so the spectrum can't be warehoused but must be used as advertised. Bidding credits were available for rural service, small businesses and tribal lands, capped at $25 million.

The 24 GHz spectrum is divided into a lower and higher portion, the lower (24.25 – 24.45 GHz and 24.75 – 25.25 GHz) being licenses as two, 100-MHz blocks and the upper (24.75 – 25.25 GHz) licenses as five, 100 MHz blocks.

The FCC earlier this year completed auction 101 (28 GHz spectrum), the first millimeter-wave auction, which brought in $702,572,410 for 2,965 licenses. The 24 GHz auction comprises 2,909 licenses divided up by partial economic areas.

Both auctions are intended to free up more spectrum for next generation (5G) broadband, part of the FCC's Spectrum Frontiers proceeding.

FCC chair Ajit Pai announced this week that the FCC next month will release a public notice seeking comment on the third millimeter-wave spectrum band auction of the year. 

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.