FCC’s Latest Spectrum Frontiers Auction Ends

The FCC has closed the clock phase of its Spectrum Frontiers auction of high-band spectrum for 5G after 104 rounds, with gross bids totalling $7,561,724,774.

That was because the net revenue requirement had been met and there was no excess demand in any category.

The auction (auction 103) launched Dec. 10.

The highest profile bidders in the millimeter-wave spectrum auction were Windstream (actually the debtors in possession), T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular Corp.

The 35 qualified bidders in the auction were competing for a whopping 3,400 MHz of millimeter-wave spectrum (in the upper 37-gigahertz, 39-GHz and 47-GHz bands), the most spectrum the FCC has ever offered in an auction of any type. The spectrum — which was offered as 14,144 licenses — can be used for both fixed and mobile broadband and is was auctioned in 100-megahertz blocks in partial economic areas (PEAs).

There will now be a follow-on auction among any of the license winners who want specific frequencies. Regardless, all winning bidders will get continuous blocks of spectrum.

The most recent high-band ("spectrum frontiers" branded) auction, which ended last May raised $2,024,268,941 in gross proceeds after 91 rounds, but that was for approximately 700 MHz, or less than the auction 103 total.

The FCC reminded the Auction 103 applicants that they are still subject to agency rules prohibiting certain communications relating to the auction until after the winning bidders submit down payments. 

“We’re excited to see the clock phase of this auction come to a conclusion," said CTIA SVP Scott Bergman. "Now it’s time to focus on freeing up critical mid-band spectrum so we can secure our leadership in the emerging 5G economy.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai signaled Thursday he would be doing just that, scheduling a vote at the February meeting on an item to auction, by year's end, 280 MHz of midband, C-Band, spectrum. 

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.