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Update: 28 GHz Auction Pushes Past $60M

With five rounds completed in the FCC's auction of 28 GHz spectrum for 5G, $62,214,320 million has been bid, up $7,421,500 from round four's $54,792,820. There are 2,121 provisionally winning bids (PWBs), which means they have met the minimum and would be winners if the auction closed at those prices.

That was up from the 2,093 PWBs in round four. There are 3,072 county-sized licenses available.

The FCC launched the auction Wednesday (Nov. 15) with two, two-hour rounds. Bidding is now being conducted in three, one-hour rounds until further notice, which is a way to goose the bidding, with another 5G spectrum auction scheduled to start after this one closes (see below).

Related: FCC Votes to Put More Broadband Spectrum Into Play

The FCC does not identify who is bidding for which licenses, only the amount bid and the new bid amount, if any, as the auction continues.

The aggregate minimum bid over all licenses is about $40 million, but the fact that the total is over $60 million does not mean the minimum has been met for every license, with many still under that and others exceeding it.

The FCC has set the minimums relatively low to get the spectrum into the hands of those who will build out the next generation of super-fast wireless. In turn, that will both help close the rural broadband divide--many of the licenses are in rural areas--and boost competition to fixed broadband, both FCC goals.

The FCC concedes it has never pushed so much spectrum into the market at one time before (two 5G auctions in a row starting with the 28 GHz Wednesday [Nov. 14] and the 24 GHz auction immediately thereafter, plus three spectrum auctions slated for next year) with a total of almost 5 GHz of spectrum, or more than all the current carriers have combined. That could mean lower prices given the law of supply and demand, though wireless carriers have repeatedly said they need lots more spectrum for the upcoming internet of everything. The point is to get the spectrum out there "fast," say FCC

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, which has larger license sizes.

There were very different views of the launch of the auction depending on whether the commissioner was a Republican or Democrat.

Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel provided something of a backhanded compliment, one that clearly signaled she thought the FCC had been behind the curve, but at least could see the straightaway, though she would prefer a clearer roadmap for the wireless ecosystem of just where the FCC was going and when.

Rosenworcel said the FCC was "finally [getting] out of the starting gate," but {following] the lead of "South Korea, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and Australia."

But at least she said the FCC was "back in the running for next-generation wireless leadership." But to lead in 5G, she said, the FCC would need both millimeter wave (the 28 GHz band) and midband spectrum. She also put in a plug for establishing an auction calendar "that states clearly to the entire wireless ecosystem—from existing providers to new spectrum interests to manufacturers and consumers—just when and how the FCC will auction new airwaves to support 5G services."

On the other hand, Republican Brendan Carr said the FCC was showing "continued leadership" in 5G.

“5G is about our economic leadership for the next decade and, with today’s auction, the FCC takes another solid step forward in winning the global race to 5G," he said. “The high-band spectrum we begin auctioning today will be critical to 5G and the innovations that next-gen wireless will unleash—from faster broadband to autonomous cars, from smart agriculture to telehealth and the Internet of Things. I’m glad the Commission is continuing to show, through concrete action, our commitment to winning the global race to 5G for the benefit of all Americans.”