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FCC 2.5 GHz Auction Nears End

5g artistic rendering
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It looks like the FCC's 2.5 GHz midband spectrum auction is drawing to a close. At press time Friday, as of round 69, for all but two licenses with bids demand was equal to supply, with 145 licenses with no bidders.

When there is no demand that exceeds supply, the auction closes. 

The FCC was speeding the process along having moved to a six-round Schedule on Friday (Aug. 26) and shortening the rounds to one-half hour.

Also: FCC Auction Nears $400 Million in Bids

Gross proceeds as of round 69 were $426,086,670. The total was nothing like the eye-popping totals for some of the FCC's past auctions.

T-Mobile was expected to be the primary 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.

It will certainly be news if T-Mobile is not the big license winner in this auction.

The FCC is auctioning about 8,000 county-based, flexible-use licenses for spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band, which had previously been reserved for educational broadband services (EBS) that flexible use likely to be for 5G but will now be shared.

FCC to Free up 2.5 GHZ

The FCC voted back in 2019 to free up the band for 5G. 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.

The FCC has been under pressure to get moving on more midband--5G sweet-spot spectrum because of its propagation characteristics--a box the 2.5 GHz auction item checks off.

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.