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FCC's Gangbuster C-Band Auction Levels Off

c-band dish
The FCC's C-Band auction has leveled off in record territory (Image credit: Bloomberg/Getty)

After a flurry of early activity drove the gross proceeds total to record territory since the C-Band spectrum auction launch Dec. 8, the post-holiday bidding has progressively slowed.

After round-over-round increases in the $3 billion-$4 billion range just before the holiday break Dec. 23, incremental increases have dipped below $1 billion per round, with $76,924,344,444 in gross proceeds after round 51 Tuesday morning, up only a little over $400 million from the previous round, and an increase of only a little over $3 billion in total over the past five rounds.

Also Read: FCC C-Band Auction Pauses on High Note

The slow-down likely means the auction is nearing its close. If past is prologue, that could trigger a move by the FCC to goose bidders, say, by announcing that those on the sidelines risk losing a change to bid in future rounds. The FCC could also shorten the rounds or increase their frequency, though there are already five rounds per day and only 30 minutes per round and according to the current FCC auction dashboard the plan is to continue that through Friday (Jan. 8).

The FCC isn't exactly complaining given that the auction has blown past some pre-auction gross proceeds estimates (see below), as well as the record for gross proceeds in any FCC spectrum auction, which was the AWS-13 auction's $44,899,451,600 in gross proceeds back in 2014. 

The C-Band Alliance is starting to look quite prescient. It predicted months ago that the spectrum could bring upwards of $75 billion--low-end estimates were $25 billion-$30 billion.

The FCC voted last February to free up 300 MHz of C-Band (3.7-3.98 GHz) satellite spectrum for terrestrial 5G broadband, 280 of that to be auctioned and 20 MHz to be used as a guard band between wireless users and the incumbent satellite operators that will use the remaining 200 MHz to continue to deliver network programming to broadcaster and cable operator (and other) clients.

Bidders in the auction include AT&T, Cellco Partnership, Cox, T-Mobile, and United States Cellular.

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.