FCC Pauses 28 GHz Auction

The FCC has hit the pause button on the 28 GHz spectrum auction until Monday (Nov. 26) for the long Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend-plus.

After 14 rounds, the bidding stands at $145,136,710 for 2,367 provisional licenses--ones where the bidder would win the spectrum if the auction closed after the last round--with the FCC still holding 705 licenses either because they have not yet drawn a bid, or because bids were withdrawn--though only a handful were withdrawn, one each in rounds two and three and four bids in round seven, and even they may have since been re-bid.

There are 40 bidders vying for 3,072 licenses.

The 28 GHz auction (Auction 101 for those keeping count) is offering two, 425 MHz, blocks divided into 3,072 Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (UMFUS) county-sized licenses in the 27.5–28.35 GHz band.

The FCC has no revenue target for the auction, and actually can't set those unless it is raising spectrum to compensate federal users, when it has to set such revenue targets to make sure it is compensating those users for moving.

But so far the auction bidding has pushed the total well past the $40 million aggregate floor price for all that spectrum. The purposely set the floor price low to get the spectrum, which will be used for 5G wireless service, into to market as quickly as possible.

There are performance requirements to build out the spectrum, and FCC officials speaking on background signaled the commission has been and will be more vigorous in enforcing its construction deadlines and would definitely frown on companies sitting on their spectrum and seeking waivers at the last minute. They said the requirement for a waiver of the buildout deadlines is "extraordinary circumstances," which is a high hurdle.

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.