FCC's C-Band Auction Launches

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai
(Image credit: FCC)

The FCC's long-awaited C-Band midband spectrum auction has begun.

That is the auction of 280 MHz of spectrum in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band for terrestrial 5G that is forcing the relocation of satellite operations to the upper portion of the band. Those operations include the satellite delivery of cable and broadcast programming from networks to stations and systems, and the relay of video from the field to the studio.

The first phase of that repack is scheduled to conclude by December 2021.

Related: FCC Opens Window on Updated C-Band Transition Plans

It is the largest-ever auction of midband spectrum.

The auction launched at 10 a.m. Tuesday, offering up 5,684 flexible-use licenses in partial economic areas and in contiguous spectrum blocks.

Some estimates have put the value of the spectrum at as much as $30 billion.

Related: Verizon is Top CBRS Auction Bidder

“This is a big day for American consumers and U.S. leadership in 5G,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai of the auction's launch. “By freeing up this wide swath of critical mid-band spectrum, the FCC is paving the way for Americans to receive fast 5G wireless services. Together with the recent success of our 3.5 GHz [CBRS] band auction, our work to auction the 2.5 GHz and 3.45 GHz bands in 2021, and the other ground-breaking spectrum auctions we’ve held since 2017, our 5G FAST Plan is in full swing."

“With today’s auction of the C-band spectrum, the United States is taking a great step forward to unleashing American innovators and entrepreneurs, and ensuring that Washington and not Beijing shapes our telecommunication and 5G future," said Mike Rogers, chairman of 5G Action Now and former House Intelligence Committee chairman. "We hope efforts to divert funds or upset negotiations can be avoided during this ongoing process. That we finally arrived at the auction is due to the leadership, dedication, and drive of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. I congratulate him and his team on this great accomplishment.”

"This auction is a decisive win for taxpayers, helping to deliver internet speeds potentially up to ten times faster than 4G," said the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. "It will also eliminate the necessity of pricey infrastructure. This means that consumers across the nation will have access to more affordable internet of a vastly higher quality. It will also alleviate the tax burden of wasteful government-owned and operated networks that cost millions and serve relatively few."

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.