The Federal Communications Commission’s millimeter wave auction appears to be winding down, although it looks like bidding will continue in the new year.
The auction has raised $689,788,660, as of the end of the fourth round of bidding on Thursday — a total which has barely budged in the last couple of days. Each of the four rounds held on Thursday raised less than $100,000 in new funds, with the last round of the day raising just $27,100 in additional bids. The last round to raise $1 million or more was Round 70 on December 14.
Just two rounds of bidding are slated for Friday, before the auction pauses for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The daily four rounds expected to resume on Thursday, January 3.
Auction 101 includes just over 3,000 county-based licenses in two 425-megahertz blocks of spectrum at 27.5 – 27.925 GHz and 27.925 – 28.350 GHz. Bidding began with forty qualified bidders. The auction kicked off with a burst of activity, raising $36.4 million in bids during the first round, followed by tepid bidding that never reached more than about $11 million per round before bidding was paused for Thanksgiving. But after Thanksgiving, bids picked up, with the dollar figure for each round of bidding running between $16 million to $20 million per round.
Just 134 licenses have not yet received bids. That number was down to 130 temporarily, but five bids were withdrawn in the first round on Thursday, bumping the number of FCC-held licenses back up to 135 before it ticked down to 134 by the end of the day.
The licenses with the top 10 provisionally winning bids are all in pairs:
-Two licenses covering Dane, Wisconsin for $12.5 million and $11.4 million.
-Honolulu, Hawaii licenses: $10.3 million and $10 million
-Linn, Iowa licenses: $9.7 million and $9.8 million
-Kern, California licenses: $8.7 million and $8.6 million
-Hidalgo, Texas licenses: $8.2 million and $7.2 million
None of those licenses have received bids since early this month.
With significant amounts of millimeter wave spectrum already held by carriers such as Verizon (which beat out AT&T in a bidding war for Straight Path that was driven by its high-band spectrum holdings) and AT&T (which acquired Fibertower and its mmWave spectrum holdings), Auction 101 isn’t expected to be a record-breaker for money raised, although FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said that this spectrum “will be critical in deploying 5G services and applications.” A few licenses are going for as low as $200, and quite a number of licenses have provisionally winning bids of less than $5,000.