Revved-Up FCC 3.45-GHz Spectrum Auction Gets In Gear

5g artistic rendering
The 3.45-GHz midband spectrum is considered the "sweet spot" for 5G wireless services. (Image credit: Getty Images)

With little movement in the top markets and increases of only tens of millions of dollars per round in the rest of the country, the Federal Communications Commission is looking to get bidders in the 3.45-GHz midband spectrum auction off the sidelines and move toward the finish line.

After the second of what will be seven 20-minute rounds per day (round 85), the auction had raised $21,426,504,290 in gross bids (up less than $20 million from $21,408,060,830 in round 84). That is about 50% higher than the reserve price the FCC set of $14.775 billion to make sure the auction covers the price of relocating federal users of the 100 MHz of the band the Department of Defense agreed to share.

“Bidders are continuing to focus their excess demand in mid to small PEAs where prices are relatively low,” said law firm Wiley’s auction-watching team. “Because the competition is focused on small markets, average bid prices are increasing extremely slowly and are most likely near their final values.”

The auction began Oct. 5 with 33 bidders, including AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Cable broadband operators had argued that the way the auction was structured — specifically the license sizes — would discourage them from bidding.

But the auction has still become the FCC’s third-highest-grossing sale in history, behind the C-band and AWS-3 auctions.

New York and Los Angeles — the two top markets in terms of aggregate bids, with close to a quarter billion dollars apiece — drew a flurry of activity in the beginning of the auction, but have not drawn higher bids in a host of recent rounds.

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.