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FCC's 28 GHz Auction Records Biggest Round Since Launch

The FCC's 28 GHz spectrum auction picked up some steam Tuesday in round 19. Bids were up by $14,315,430, the biggest one-round jump since the auction began Nov. 14.

That pushed the bid total to $196,382,090 for 2,469 of the 3,072 available county-sized licenses. That means there have been provisionally winning bids on almost three-quarters of the licenses. The round 18 total had been $182,066,660 for 2,447 licenses.

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 28 GHz auction (auction 101) 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, while the 24 GHz auction (auction 102) will offer 2,909 larger partial economic area (PEA) UMFUS licenses in the 24.25–24.45 GHz and 24.75–25.25 GHz (24 GHz) band.

The FCC concedes it has never pushed so much spectrum into the market at one time before, which could mean lower prices, but the point is to get the spectrum out there "fast." There are performance requirements to build out the spectrum, and the officials signaled the FCC has been and will be more vigorous in enforcing its construction deadlines and signaled the FCC would 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.

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.