5gThe 5G spectrum auction of spectrum in the 28 GHz band is set to kick off tomorrow. Ultimately 40 entities qualified to bid in the auction, which is expected to generate a minimum of $40 million. The $40 million figure represents the total of all minimum bids for the 1,500-plus counties to be included in the auction, explained senior FCC officials on a call with reporters today.

Two licenses, each comprised of 425 MHz of spectrum, will be auctioned for each county.

The 28 GHz auction is the first of a total of five auctions of 5G spectrum targeted for the next year and a half, commission officials said. An auction of 24 GHz spectrum is scheduled to begin as soon as the 28 GHz auction is completed.

5G Auction Plans
Although 50 companies submitted applications to participate in the 28 GHz 5G spectrum auction, only 40 companies appear on the FCC’s final list of qualified bidders. Others dropped out, generally because they did not submit complete applications or did not make a deposit required for participation, commission officials said.

The qualified bidder list includes two of the nation’s four major wireless carriers — AT&T and T-Mobile, but not Sprint or Verizon. Sprint was not expected to participate in the 24 GHz or 28 GHz auctions – in part because it has considerable mid-band spectrum that it plans to use for 5G. And Verizon  already has considerable holdings in the 28 GHz band, which it acquired when it purchased XO Communications last year. Verizon has submitted a complete application for the 24 GHz auction, however.

Also on the final qualified bidder list for the 28 GHz auction are Frontier, U.S. Cellular, Windstream,  numerous small wireless carriers and other entities. The spectrum can be used for fixed or mobile service, and wireline companies such as Frontier and Windstream likely are interested in using the spectrum for fixed deployments.

The 1,500-plus counties to be included in the 28 GHz auction represent only a portion of total counties. As FCC officials explained today, licenses are already held for some counties, primarily in metro areas and often in the hands of Verizon.

A report written by Telecom Advisory Services for the Competitive Carriers Association and released last month estimates that the 28 GHz auction is likely to generate between $41 million and $1.1 billion, with the most likely scenario being about $561 million. According to the report, the 28 GHz auction will cover 61.7% of the land mass and 23.7% of the population.

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