FCC Grants 3.45-GHz Flexible-Use Licenses

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The Federal Communications Commission said it has handed out flexible-use licenses to the winning bidders in its 3.45-GHz band spectrum auction, which closed in January.

The FCC issued 4,041 licenses to winning bidders, who ponied up more than $22 billion for the commercial wireless broadband spectrum. AT&T was the big winner with over $9 billion in licenses. Dish Network (bidding as Weminuche LLC) was second with $7.3 billion, followed by T-Mobile at $2.9 billion.

The spectrum can be used for either fixed or mobile service, with the exception of aeronautical mobile. Licenses are renewable with initial license periods of no more than 15 years. Winning bidders have benchmarks for building out service to a set percentage of users. For example, for service to internet of things [IoT] devices, service must be available within four years to 35% of the license area, and 65% within eight years. Missing that first benchmark reduces a license term by one year. Missing the second means automatic termination of the license and no chance to get it back.

“The licenses we are granting today represent a wider variety of providers, including small businesses [the FCC said that 13 of the 23 winning bidders qualified as small businesses, who got a $25 million bidding credit] and rural carriers, who will help deliver on the promise of 5G to every corner of the country,” FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “Building on the success of this auction, we are hard at work preparing for the 2.5 GHz auction starting in July.

Last March, the FCC voted to allocate the 3.45-3.55 GHz band for flexible use, complete the relocation of secondary non-federal commercial users, and sunset amateur use of a portion of the band. ■

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.