The FCC’s second 5G millimeter wave auction completed its clock phase today, having raised nearly $2 billion. The auction, known as Auction 102, includes wide 100 MHz swaths of spectrum in the 24 GHz band. The amount of funding ultimately raised should be higher, as additional bids will be made in an upcoming assignment phase.
Seven licenses were available for each partial economic area and all but five of the 2909 licenses available in the auction received a winning bid, according to the FCC. Winners have not yet been announced.
Millimeter wave spectrum is expected to support some of the highest 5G speeds, but over relatively short distances. AT&T and Verizon already have deployed 5G in the millimeter wave band on a limited basis using spectrum they purchased from other entities or obtained when they acquired another carrier. Nevertheless, both of those carriers and 36 other companies qualified to bid in Auction 102.
A previous auction of millimeter wave spectrum in the 28 GHz band, Auction 101, completed earlier this year and raised $702.5 Million, even though licenses were only available for a portion of the country. The FCC opted not to release the names of Auction 101 winners until after the completion of Auction 102.
5G Millimeter Wave Auction
As of now, winning bids in Auction 102 have not been assigned to a specific block within the seven blocks auctioned in each license area. But as Ari Meltzer, partner with telecom law firm Wiley Rein explained in an email to Telecompetitor, “the FCC will next hold an assignment round to determine the exact licenses each winning bidder will receive.”
The FCC said it would release a public notice “in the next few days” with more information about the assignment phase.
Meltzer doesn’t expect to see auction proceeds increase much in the assignment round.
“While the gross revenue will go up some, it is unlikely to be much. For comparison, in the FCC’s last clock auction (the broadcast television incentive auction), proceeds from the assignment round accounted for less than 1% of the total auction proceeds.”
If that indeed comes to pass, it would mean that the auction proceeds would be considerably less than some had expected.
For example, Telecom Advisory Services expected the auction to raise between $334 million and $27.5 billion, with $14 billion being the most likely scenario.