FCC 2.5 GHz Auction Grosses $427,789,670

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The FCC's latest 5G spectrum auction ended Monday (August 29) after 73 rounds and $427,789,670 in gross bids.

That total, which in part reflects the fact the FCC gave out free spectrum to Tribal entities in a priority window before the auction, will be decreased by small business, rural and tribal land bidding credits of up to a 25% discount.

The flexible use licenses are for 10 years but are renewable.

T-Mobile was expected to be the major player in the auction since the spectrum fits with holes it has in its coverage areas. One veteran spectrum watcher said likely the only reason most other carriers would be bidding was to bid up how much their competitor, T-Mobile, would have to pay to fill those holes.

Also: Tribal Window Closes

The FCC opened an early Tribal window for 2.5 GHz spectrum and got more than 400 applications for the free spectrum in advance of the auction. The FCC said Monday: "Any winning bidder awarded a license in Auction 108 will not be allowed to operate within the license area of a successful Rural Tribal Priority Window applicant, even if that application remains pending at the time of issuance of the license [to the winning bidder]."

"Due to these encumbrances, a substantial number of licenses in the inventory for Auction 108 have a very small amount of unassigned area or spectrum," the organization pointed out.

The licenses can be used for any terrestrial fixed or mobile service. The licenses have buildout requirements of signal coverage of 50% of the license area within four years and 80% within eight years.

Of the over 8,000 licenses in play, 7,872 drew winning bids, while 145 drew no bids.

The auction began July 29.

The FCC voted back in 2019 to free up the band for 5G, the most likely flexible use. Educational users with the licenses can continue to use it or lease it to others (as many have already been doing), transfer it to someone else, or use it for something else.

EBS, formerly Instructional Television Fixed Service, or ITFS, was used in the 1960s for closed-circuit broadcasts to educational institutions, but was rebooted in the early 2000s and pointed toward broadband. ■

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.