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High-Band Spectrum Auction Approaches $2 Billion

After four days and 11 rounds, the FCC's latest high-band 5G spectrum auction is approaching $2 billion in gross proceeds.

High-band spectrum is the shorter-wave spectrum that requires more dense arrays of towers because it does not travel as far as lower-band spectrum. 

Round 12 begins Monday morning (Dec. 16) with the current gross bid total at $1,917,584,500. 

The FCC is auctioning 3400 MHz of millimeter-wave spectrum (in the Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands), more spectrum than it has ever auctioned at one time before, but with only 35 bidders vying for it (there were 38 bidders in the previous auction for less spectrum). The spectrum can be used for both fixed and mobile broadband and is being auctioned in 100 MHz blocks in partial economic areas (PEAs). 

Not surprisingly, New York has drawn the highest price at over $10 million. 

Sasha Javid, COO at the Spectrum Consortium, blogged last week that given the low number of bidders and the large amount of spectrum (opens in new tab), he does not expect the auction to match the disappointing per-MHz POP* price of the last millimeter-wave spectrum auction (102). 

Still, the auction will almost certainly push past the clock phase total of $1,988,888,836 in the most recent high-band auction (102, the 24 GHz band) that ended last April. 

The auction is divided into two parts, the clock phase, where bidders bid on licenses, then a second, assignment phase, among winning bidders for specific specific frequencies.  

The FCC is still running three, one-hour, rounds per day in auction 103, but if past is prologue will boost that total considerably as it tries to speed the auction along. 

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.