FCC Boosts Rounds in Sluggish 2.5 GHz Auction

A gavel on top of a stack of money
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Looking to goose its 2.5 GHz midband spectrum auction, the Federal Communications Commission said Monday (August 8) that it will be moving from two, two-hour rounds per day to four, one-hour rounds starting Wednesday, August 10.

The auction bid total has been increasing by only a few million dollars per round for over 8,000 flexible-use licenses.

In its first, six-hour round Friday, July 29, the auction bidding topped $100 million, but has only increased by about half that in the ensuing week-plus.

As of the end of round 13 Monday, the total was $159,899,600. There was more than one bidder for only 1,947 licenses, with demand not exceeding supply for the vast majority of licenses -- 5,908 -- and 162 with no bids. After round 10, bidders had ponied up $146,551,500.

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, 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.