T-Mobile Cleans Up in FCC’s 2.5-GHz Spectrum Auction

T-Mobile 5G map
T-Mobile is expected to use the spectrum it won in the 2.5-GHz auction to patch holes in its coverage areas. (Image credit: T-Mobile)

As expected, T-Mobile was the biggest bidder by a huge margin in the Federal Communications Commission’s just-concluded 2.5-GHz auction.

The carrier’s gross winning bids totaled $304,325,290 for the vast majority of licenses — 7,156 of the 8,017 up for bid, with the other licenses drawing no bids.

The licenses can be used for any terrestrial fixed or mobile service and have buildout requirements of signal coverage of 50% of the license area within four years and 80% within eight years.

T-Mobile was expected to be the primary major player in the auction since the spectrum fits with holes it has in its coverage areas. One veteran spectrum watcher said likely the only reason most other carriers would be bidding was to bid up how much their competitor, T-Mobile, would have to pay to fill those holes.

There were no other big-name winners, with the second-most licenses won (107) by the North American Catholic Educational Programming Foundation and the second gross bid total recorded by PTI Pacifica Inc.

The auction's gross bid total of $427 million will be reduced by quite a bit, as more than three-quarters of the winning bidders qualified for millions of dollars in small business bidding credits applied to their winning prices.

There are 63 winning bidders, 77% of which qualified as small businesses or as entities serving rural ares that will support the introduction of innovative new wireless services in their local communities. In addition, Auction 108 raised gross proceeds exceeding $427 million. 

The FCC voted back in 2019 to free up the band reserved for Educational Broadband Service (EBS) service for 5G, the most likely flexible use. Educational users with the licenses can continue to use it or lease it to others (as many have already been doing), transfer it to someone else, or use it for something else. ▪️

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.