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Verizon Wireless Tops C-Band Bidders at Over $45 Billion

A 5G graphic
(Image credit: Dong Wenjie via Getty Images)

Verizon wireless, doing business as Cellco Partnership, was the top bidder in the FCC's C-Band auction at $45,454,843,197 in gross winning bids for 3,511 licenses, almost double that of second-place AT&T at $23,406,860,839 for 1,621 licenses.

Rounding out the top five in gross bids were T-Mobile with $9,336,125,147 for 142 licenses; United States Cellular Corp. with $1,282,641,542 for 254 licenses, and New Level II with $1,277,395,688.

Also Read: FCC Opens Window for Updated C-Band Transition Plans

The auction, which closed Feb. 17, raised $81,168,677,645 in gross bids and $81,114,481,921 in net bids, a record haul for an FCC spectrum auction.

There were 21 winning bidders on a total of 5,684 flexible use (that use will almost certainly be for 5G) overlay licenses in the 3.7–3.98 GHz band, the most midband spectrum the FCC has auctioned for 5G.

"Since Verizon and AT&T together have acquired over 80 percent of the C-band’s 280 megahertz," said Michael Calabrese of New America's Open Technology Institute, "it will be crucial for competition that the FCC adopt a 3 GHz spectrum aggregation limit as part of the 3.45 GHz auction rules.”

“Today’s announcement marks the culmination of years of hard work from Congress, the FCC and industry," said Meredith Attwell Baker, president of CTIA, the wireless association. "These record-breaking results highlight the demand and critical need for more licensed mid-band spectrum and demonstrate the importance of developing a robust spectrum auction pipeline. They also underscore the commitment by stakeholders across the wireless industry to invest in innovation, drive our economic recovery and ensure that the U.S. leads the 5G Economy.”

A follow-on auction for specific frequencies among those 21 winning bidders began Feb. 8 and concluded last week. 

The FCC voted last February to free up 300 MHz of C-Band (3.7-4.2 GHz) satellite spectrum for terrestrial 5G broadband, 280 of that to be auctioned and 20 MHz to be used as a guard band between wireless users and the incumbent satellite operators that are being relocated to the remaining upper 200 MHz to continue to deliver network programming to broadcasters and cable operators (and other) clients, and to relay video from the field to the studio.

The first phase of that repack is scheduled to conclude by December 2021.

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.