Update: 5G Bid Total Pushes Past $40M

With two rounds completed in the FCC's auction of 28 GHz spectrum for 5G, there are 2,065 county-sized licenses with provisionally winning bids (PWBs)—out of 3,072 available—totaling $41,693,960 in bids.

That is compared to 2,016 licenses with provisionally winning bids (PWBs) totaling $36,428,000, out of 3,072 available in round one. That translates to $5,265,450 more bids in round two.

The FCC launched the auction Wednesday with two, two-hour rounds.

Currently only a single bid has been withdrawn, an $860 bid in Marshall, Kan. 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 even with the round-two total exceeding that, there could still be bids that have not met their license minimums in some areas, while in others the bids have pushed past the minimums.

PWBs are ones that have met the minimum for those individual licenses, which the FCC is setting 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 officials.

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.

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.