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FCC Spectrum Auction Nears $2.5B

The FCC's high-band spectrum auction closed well above $2 billion in gross proceeds Monday (Dec. 16) as the FCC frees up more spectrum for broadband.

The total after 14 rounds was $2,440,540,340. That pushes it well past the total for the last high-band spectrum auction back in April, but this auction is for the most spectrum ever put up for bid at one time--3400 MHz.

FCC chair Ajit Pai has pointed to the auction to illustrate the commission's commitment to getting spectrum in the pipeline for 5G, while senior Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has complained that the FCC is too focused on high-band and should have prioritized the midband spectrum that requires less network densification--high band waves are shorter and do not travel as far as midband, requiring more infrastructure.

The FCC is auctioning 3400 MHz of millimeter-wave spectrum (in the Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands), more spectrum than it has ever auctioned at one time before, but with only 35 bidders vying for it (there were 38 bidders in the previous auction for less spectrum). The spectrum can be used for both fixed and mobile broadband and is being auctioned in 100 MHz blocks in partial economic areas (PEAs).

The auction is divided into two parts, the clock phase, where bidders bid on licenses, then a second, assignment phase, auction among winning bidders for specific specific frequencies.

The FCC is still running three, one-hour, rounds per day, but if past is prologue will boost that total as it speeds the auction along.

The highest profile bidders are Windstream (actually the debtors in possession), T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular Corp.

Related: Windstream Gets Access to $400 Million in Bankruptcy Financing

The FCC launched its latest high-band spectrum auction (auction 103) Tuesday (Dec. 10). 

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.