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C-Band Auction surpasses $15B mark

Through 24 rounds, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) C-Band Auction 107 has drawn more than $15 billion in bids among 57 qualified bidders. Auction 107 will offer new flexible-use overlay licenses for spectrum in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band (3.7 GHz Service) throughout the United States. After 24 rounds, 5,666 “blocks” out of 5,684 have been provisionally sold. Although there are only a handful of unclaimed blocks left, it’s possible that the auction could go on for quite awhile longer, according to BitPath Chief Operating Officer and auction tracker Sasha Javid.

“It is always hard to predict how long auctions will go,” Javid told Connected Real Estate Magazine. “But with a clock auction, as long as one product has excess demand, the auction will continue. Thus, I could see this auction going 100 rounds even if the incremental dollars do not increase much in these later rounds.”

Some of the U.S.’s most populated cities have bid the most for their desired spectrum blocks. After 24 rounds, New York holds the top two spots among the 20 most populated areas vying for licenses with a $135.6 million posted price. Los Angeles ($104 million), Chicago ($50.3 million), San Francisco ($48.5 million) and Baltimore/Washington, DC ($42.1 million) rounded out the top 5.

Meanwhile, it has been some of the less populated areas of the U.S. that have been willing to pay a higher price per megahertz. The top five cities in this category, Oklahoma City, OK; Brownsville, TX; Las Vegas, Milwaukee and Fresno, CA all bid at least $0.26 per-mHZ-POP through 20 rounds, which is on par with the previously mentioned more densely populated areas’ bid per-mHZ.

The importance of Auction 107

In August, the CBRS Priority Access License (PAL) Auction (105) raised more than $4.58 billion in bids after 76 rounds. The fact that the C-Band Auction 107 has already tripled that figure after 24 rounds shows just how critical carriers, enterprises and municipalities believe these licenses are. The C-Band spectrum is being highly prioritized for good reason—it’s deemed critical in the deployment of 5G due to the mid-band spectrum it will provide. C-Band spectrum is critical for in particular for wireless carriers AT&T and Verizon to in terms of gaining mid-band to keep pace with T-Mobile, who had accessed a significant amount of 2.5 GHz mid-band after it merged with Sprint.

“The C-band will be a foundational spectrum band for 5G for most carriers in the US,” Javid told Connected. “This mid-band spectrum provides a nice balance between coverage and capacity. This band is also internationally harmonized. Thus, all the carriers will be interested in picking up a substantial amount of contiguous spectrum in this auction, with the possible exception of T-Mobile, which already has a lot of mid-band spectrum.”

“(Mid-band spectrum) features the attractive combination of good geographic coverage with strong capacity, which enables providers to broadly deploy 5G networks,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement at the start of C-Band Auction 107. “This is a watershed moment for American leadership in 5G. This auction will quickly free up a significant amount of spectrum for 5G and represents the Commission’s most significant action yet to repurpose mid-band frequencies.”

Joe Dyton can be reached at joed@fifthgenmedia.com.

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