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FCC Awards C-Band Licenses

c-band dish
(Image credit: Bloomberg/Getty)

The FCC said Friday that it had granted 5,676 (out of 5,684 put up for auction) to winning bidders in the C-Band auction (3.7-3.98 GHz).

The FCC auctioned 280 MHZ of satellite spectrum and reserved the other 20 for guard bands.

The auction freed up midband spectrum for flexible use--particularly 5G.

“These mid-band licenses are the sweet spot for 5G deployment,” said FCC acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel of the announcement by the Wireless Bureau. “That’s because they have the right mix of capacity and propagation that will help us reach more people in more places faster. With these licenses in hand, more carriers can deploy mid-band 5G, which means faster speeds over much wider coverage areas and more robust competition. I thank our outstanding wireless, auctions, and international teams for a job very, very well done.” 

Verizon wireless, doing business as Cellco Partnership, was the top bidder in the FCC's C-Band auction at $45,454,843,197 in gross winning bids for 3,511 licenses, almost double that of second-place AT&T at $23,406,860,839 for 1,621 licenses.

Rounding out the top five in gross bids were T-Mobile with $9,336,125,147 for 142 licenses; United States Cellular Corp. with $1,282,641,542 for 254 licenses, and New Level II with $1,277,395,688.

Also Read: FCC Opens Window for Updated C-Band Transition Plans

The auction, which closed Feb. 17, raised $81,168,677,645 in gross bids and $81,114,481,921 in net bids, a record haul for an FCC spectrum auction.

The auction, the largest-ever auction of midband spectrum, began Dec. 8 and ended with a bidding record almost double the previous record-holder, the FCC's 2014 AWS-3 auction, which drew $44,899,451,600 in gross proceeds.

The FCC voted last February to free up 300 MHz of C-Band (3.7-4.2 GHz) satellite spectrum for terrestrial 5G broadband, 280 of that to be auctioned and 20 MHz to be used as a guard band between wireless users and the incumbent satellite operators that are being relocated to the remaining upper 200 MHz to continue to deliver network programming to broadcasters and cable operators (and other) clients, and to relay video from the field to the studio.

“The Commission’s 2020 decision to free up 280 megahertz of prime, mid-band spectrum notched an important win for U.S. leadership in 5G," said Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr, who wanted to make sure the former Republican chair got some credit. "The FCC’s landmark auction of C-Band spectrum would not have been possible without the legwork put in by then FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the talented FCC staff that worked on the proceeding. I was pleased to vote in favor of holding this auction. Like many of our spectrum decisions, this proceeding was no walk in the park. And many people in Washington urged the FCC not to move forward with this auction—not because this C-Band spectrum was unsuited for next-gen wireless services, but because moving forward meant taking political heat for doing the right thing."

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.