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FCC Sets Aggregation Limit on 3.5 GHz Auction

A 5G graphic
(Image credit: Dong Wenjie via Getty Images)

To try and make sure some of the 5G spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band that it is auctioning in October makes it into the hands of more players, the FCC has proposed a 40 MHz limit on any one bidder on the total 100 MHz available.

That is according to the draft order circulated by acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel for a vote by the FCC at the March 17 public meeting.

The limit extends to four years beyond the auction so a company could not get the maximum 40 MHz in the auction, then get more in the secondary market. "We acknowledge that our public interest goals in adopting a bright-line limit for this band could be undermined if entities that win 40 megahertz of spectrum at auction could then acquire more 3.45-3.55 GHz spectrum post-auction in the secondary market," the draft order said.

The FCC set a 40 MHz aggregation limit in the CBRS auction, but not in the C-Band auction, the latter which saw AT&T and Verizon combine to get 80% of the spectrum.

Also Read: Verizon Tops C-Band Bidders

Congress had mandated in the Consolidated Appropriations Act that the FCC come up with a system of competitive bidding for the spectrum by the end of this year. 

The White House and Department of Defense officials last August announced that they had identified 100 MHz of midband spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band--currently used by DOD for key radar applications--that could be freed up quickly for sharing with commercial 5G without sacrificing national security or military uses, specifically critical radar for air defense, missile and gun control, battlefield weapon locations, and air traffic control.

Michael Calabrese of New America's Open Technology Institute said his group would still like to see an overall aggregation limit given Verizon's C-Band spectrum haul, but said of the 40 MHz limit, "at least this precludes a total shut out."

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.