Auction 102, comprised of 5G spectrum in the 24 GHz millimeter wave band, closed today, raising just over $2 billion, the FCC said. All but five of the 2,909 licenses available for auction had winning bids. The identity of winning bidders has not yet been released, but a public notice with additional information is expected within a few days.
The clock phase of Auction 102, which determined the total amount of spectrum each bidder won per license area, closed last month. Today’s news represents the completion of the assignment phase of the auction. In the assignment phase, winning bidders placed additional bids to use specific 100-MHz blocks within the 24 GHz band in areas for which they won licenses.
In Auction 102, a total of seven 100-MHz licenses were available for each partial economic area (PEA) in the country. The total amount of funding raised in the clock phase of Auction 102 was just under $2 billion, indicating that the total amount of funding raised increased slightly during the assignment round.
5G Millimeter Wave Auction Closes
A wide range of companies, including major nationwide wireless carriers, smaller rural carriers and even some primarily wireline carriers such as Frontier, Windstream, and Cox Communications qualified to bid in Auction 101 or Auction 102 or both. The identity of winners in Auction 101 have not yet been released, but should be soon, now that Auction 102 has been completed.
While major nationwide wireless carriers likely are most interested in using spectrum winnings for mobile service, some other companies may be most interested in offering fixed wireless service. That’s a key focus for Windstream, for example.
The total amount of funding raised in Auction 102 was considerably lower than some forecasters expected. Telecom Advisory Services, for example, expected the auction to raise between $334 million and $27.5 billion, with $14 billion being the most likely scenario. Auction 101 raised just $700 million, but that wasn’t surprising because available licenses were largely outside major metro areas. Auction 102, however, included licenses throughout the U.S.
The results may indicate that network operators are concerned about the cost of deploying service in the millimeter wave band. Although broad swaths of spectrum are available in the band, potentially supporting high data speeds, the downside is that coverage range in millimeter wave bands is less than in lower-frequency bands.
Another possibility is that what companies were willing to spend in Auction 102 was tempered by the FCC’s plan to auction additional millimeter wave spectrum in Auction 103, which is now set to begin December 10. That auction will include spectrum in the 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz bands.