FCC 2.5-GHz Spectrum Auction Moseys Along

5g artistic rendering
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After a half-dozen rounds, the Federal Communications Commission's 2.5-GHz spectrum auction has not set the spectrum world on fire as of yet, at least in terms of big bidding.

After starting out of blocks Friday (July 29) with a little more than $100 million in bids, as of round six midday Wednesday, the total was $132,177,910, or only a few million more in new bids per round.

The FCC is auctioning approximately 8,000 flexible-use, county-based geographic overlay licenses for spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band. Flexible use means it can be used for things other than 5G, but probably won't be.

Also: FCC Spectrum Auction Chugs Along

T-Mobile is expected to be the big beneficiary since it can use the auction to fill in gaps in the 2.5 GHz spectrum it got in the Sprint deal. But that could mean that there is not as much bidding from others for whom the spectrum is not as specifically useful.

As of round six, there were 2,226 licenses with more than one bidder, 5,587 licenses with only one bidder and 164 with no bidders.

The FCC is holding two, two-hour rounds per day, but look for the frequency to increase and the duration to decrease if bidding continues on a slow roll.

There are 82 qualified bidders in the auction, including AT&T, Verizon Communications, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular.

The 2.5 GHz spectrum band has been used for educational broadband services (EBS), but in 2017, with the explosion of 5G and the search for more sweet-spot midband spectrum, particularly for rural service, the FCC under chairman Ajit Pai, concluding the band was being underused, agreed to free up some of that spectrum.

EBS, formerly Instructional Television Fixed Service, or ITFS, was used in the 1960s for closed-circuit broadcasts to educational institutions. It 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.