No New Licenses Bid in Round 23 of 28 GHz Auction

The FCC's 28 GHz spectrum auction started strong Wednesday (Nov. 28), with provisional winning bids in round 23 up $19,614,710 (8.12%) over round 22, by far the biggest round-over-round increase since the auction's launch Nov. 14.

That pushed the total PWB amount to over a quarter billion dollars ($263,050). That doesn't sound like much next to the almost $20 billion bid for wireless broadband spectrum in the broadcast incentive auction, but this is high-band spectrum rather than the more valuable low-band incentive auction spectrum, and the FCC is pushing more spectrum into the market so prices will likely be lower.

But the 28 GHz auction isn't over yet, either.

One new twist is that, for the first time since the auction began, no new licenses were bid on, so the increase was all in bids upped from previous rounds. 

There were 2,496 PWBs bid on in round 22 and the same in round 23, and since no bids were withdrawn, those would have to be the same licenses being bid on in both rounds. The FCC still has 576 licenses yet to draw bids, or a little under the total 3,072 licenses

The FCC is looking for wireless carriers to boost their spectrum holdings as they prepare to roll out 5G service at speeds that should make wireless an undisputed full-fledged competitor to wired broadband.

There are 40 qualified bidders competing for the 28 GHz spectrum, including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, but none of the major cable operators eyeing wireless plays--though Cox is signed up for the 24 GHz auction of spectrum for 5G, which has larger license sizes
and which will begin as soon as the 28 GHz auction ends.

The FCC concedes it has never pushed so much spectrum into the market at one time before, which could mean those lower prices, but the point is to get the spectrum out there "fast" given that wireless carriers have been talking up the need for speed and bandwidth for an internet of everything, 5G world. 

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.