FCC Launches Latest Midband Spectrum Auction

A communications tower in the clouds
(Image credit: John Lund via Getty Images)

The FCC has launched its latest auction (110) of midband spectrum, generally considered the sweet spot for 5G due to its propagation characteristics.

The FCC is auctioning flexible licenses for 100 MHz of contiguous spectrum in the 3.45 GHz band.

Acting FCC Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel had argued during the last administration that the FCC was too focused on high-band spectrum and not enough on midband.

“These airwaves are a critical part of unlocking the 5G promise everywhere in the country," Rosenworcel said.

Also Read: FCC Opens 3.45 GHz Band for Flexible Use

Even if Rosenworcel hadn't been focused on midband, she was under orders to launch the auction.

Congress mandated in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 that the FCC come up with a system of competitive bidding by year's end for the 100 MHz of spectrum the Defense Department identified for sharing in the band. It set a December 2021 deadline for the auction.

Auction winners will be sharing the band with incumbent federal users, which must be protected from interference.

Back in March, the FCC voted unanimously on how to open up the swath of high-value midband spectrum in the 3.45 GHz band--currently used by DOD for key radar applications--for commercial wireless broadband (5G) and, separately, approved proposed applications and bidding processes for the auction.

The FCC is auctioning the 100 MHz spectrum in 10 MHz spectrum blocks — as commissioner Geoffrey Starks had advocated — with a 40 MHz limit on how much any one bidder can acquire in a single area.

The FCC is providing a $25 million bidding credit for small businesses and a $10 million credit for rural providers.

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.