FCC Looks to Spur 28 GHz Bidding

As expected, the FCC is pausing bidding in the 28 GHz auction Wednesday (Dec. 5) for the Day of Mourning for the late President George H. W. Bush, but after that it plans to goose the auction.

Starting in round 43 on Thursday (Dec. 6), the FCC is transitioning to Stage 2 of the auction, which means bidders will have to be active on 99% of its available bids in each round, up from 80% in Stage 1.

Related: 29 GHz Auction Tops $500M

Not meeting that 99% activity could permanently reduce a bidder's ability to place more bids in the auction, though though there are waivers that can be used to delay that.

The auction appears to need goosing. In the past six rounds, only two additional licenses have been bid on--2,716 in round 34 to 2,718 in round 39.

At press time Tuesday (Dec. 4), the auction had closed round 39, the first round of the day, with $536,040,320 in aggregate provisional winning bids for 2,718 licenses. That was up $9,755,660 from round 38's $526,284,660.

The FCC is looking for wireless carriers to boost their spectrum holdings as they prepare to roll out 5G service at speeds that should make wireless an undisputed full-fledged competitor to wired broadband.

There are 40 qualified bidders competing for the 28 GHz spectrum, including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, but none of the major cable operators eyeing wireless plays--though Cox is signed up for the 24 GHz auction of spectrum for 5G, which has larger license sizes and which will begin as soon as the 28 GHz auction ends.

The FCC concedes it has never pushed so much spectrum into the market at one time before, which could mean those lower prices, but the point is to get the spectrum out there "fast" given that wireless carriers have been talking up the need for speed and bandwidth for an internet of everything, 5G world.

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.