The Federal Communications Commission’s auction of 24 GHz spectrum has garnered more than $1.409 billion in bids after eight business days and 23 rounds. That’s double the $704 million that the 28 GHz auction raised in its entirety.
Three rounds of bidding are being held each day at this point in the auction. The clock auction format begins with a “clock phase” (the current auction phase) which lets participants bid on generic blocks in each Partial Economic Area in successive bidding rounds, followed by an “assignment phase” that allows the winners of the generic blocks to bid for frequency-specific license assignments. The clock phase continues, with prices automatically increasing each round, until bidders’ demand for licenses at a certain price matches the supply — and at that point, the bidders who have indicated they are willing to pay the final clock price for a license will be considered winners and the assignment phase can begin.
The most hotly contested licenses are those covering New York City and Los Angeles, California. New York City metropolitan licenses are dominating the bidding: four bids for NYC licenses in the upper portion of the band are currently above $30 million. One of those is at $41.1 million, the largest bid of the auction thus far. The most expensive bid for a Los Angeles license, also in the upper portion of the band, is up to $31.6 million, with other bids on LA licenses as high as $28.7 million and $26.1 million.
Auction 102 offers up more than 2,900 licenses in the 24.25– 24.45 and 24.75–25.25 GHz band. The licenses up for bid are based on a Partial Economic Area geographic basis which divides the country into 416 sections. Seven blocks of 100 megahertz will be available in nearly all of the licensed markets. The FCC noted in its auction information that the G block in some markets is completely or partially encumbered, so in a few PEAs in Arizona and Nevada, only six blocks are available. The lower segment of the 24 GHz band (24.25–24.45 GHz) will be licensed as two 100 megahertz blocks, according to the FCC, while the upper segment (24.75–25.25 GHz) will be split into five 100 megahertz blocks. Those licenses are indicated as categories L and U in the bidding round results.
Thirty-eight bidders qualified to participate in the auction, including AT&T, T-Mobile US, Verizon and Sprint (bidding as ATI Sub LLC); U.S. Cellular; Dish Network, bidding as Crestone Wireless; Starry Spectrum Holdings and Windstream Communications, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection in the wake of a court case.
The auction is proceeding in spite of bipartisan objections from several House members, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which have expressed concern to the FCC that the agency is pushing ahead with 5G development that could potentially impact weather data collection operations in adjacent bands and hamper the nation’s weather forecasting capabilities.
The FCC is making a total of 1.55 gigahertz of spectrum available through auctions 101 (which concluded in late January after raising $702 million) and 102. The agency plans to hold three more mmWave auctions during 2019, covering spectrum at 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz.
Although the FCC has usually makes winning bidders public shortly after the close of an auction, the winning bidders from Auction 101 will not be publicly named until after the close of Auction 102.