After seven rounds, the Federal Communications Commission‘s 3.45 GHz midband spectrum auction has pushed past the $1 billion mark in bids — $1,078,382,800.
Winning bidders must share the 100 Megahertz of spectrum up for grabs with the Department of Defense, which is its incumbent occupant. The auction is for flexible licenses, although the expectation is they will be used for 5G wireless.
The bidding has to reach the reserve price of $14,775,354,330 for it to be able to close successfully. That is because it will cost about that much to clear the spectrum for use.
Some estimates for the take from the final auction have gone as high as $25 billion.
Up for grabs are 4,060 licenses in 10 blocks in each partial economic area (PEA), with a 40-MHz limit on how much any one bidder can acquire in a single PEA. The licenses are subject to sharing requirements, at least in some locations.
Cable operators and others had argued that using the partial economic area metric was the wrong way to go and would discourage auction participation by competitors to the big telecom bidders, and had asked the FCC to reconsider that proposal.
Congress mandated in the Consolidated Appropriations Act that the FCC come up with a system of competitive bidding by year-end for the 100 MHz of spectrum the Defense Department identified for sharing in the band.
Congress had set a December 2021 deadline for auctioning the 3.45 GHz band.
The auction will consist of the current clock phase, with bidding on spectrum blocks, and an assignment phase among the winning bidders for specific frequencies. There is a reserve price on the spectrum of $14 billion-plus.
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.
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