Nearly 75 entities have applied to bid in Auction 107, an auction of 280 MHz of coveted mid-band spectrum in the C-band between 3.7-3.98 GHz. The list of would-be C-band bidders reads like a “Who’s Who” of service providers and reportedly includes all major mobile carriers, all major cable companies, Dish and Viasat, as well as numerous smaller companies.
Many industry observers see mid-band spectrum providing the optimum mixture of coverage and range to support 5G services, both mobile and fixed.
About half the applicants submitted incomplete applications—a common occurrence in wireless auctions. But typically, the majority of those submitting incomplete applications eventually provide required missing information and move to the complete applications list.
The C-band auction is scheduled to start in December. Licenses will be issued by partial economic area (PEA) and each license will include 20 MHz of spectrum.
Spectrum in the C-band should be especially attractive to companies that won licenses in the recent CBRS auction because that band is adjacent to the C-band, which means that entities winning licenses in both bands may be able to combine spectrum to maximize speeds and capacity.
Verizon was the biggest winner in the CBRS auction, but Dish, Charter, Cox and Comcast also were big winners. Some companies plan to bid in the C-band auction under unfamiliar names, but all three of those cable companies reportedly have applied to bid in the auction.
Cable companies may use any spectrum winnings to support their mobile offerings, which currently rely in large part, on reselling Verizon’s network. But at least one cable company – Charter – is likely to use any mid-band spectrum it wins for fixed wireless services.
Other companies on the C-band bidder list that would likely use any winnings for fixed wireless include W.A.T.C.H. TV Company and Wisper ISP, both of whom are fixed wireless providers that were big winners in the 2018 Connect America Fund CAF II reverse auction, which awarded funding to cover some of the costs of deploying broadband in unserved or underserved rural areas.
Perhaps the biggest surprise on the C-band bidder list was satellite operator Viasat. Rival satellite provider Dish has committed to building a mobile network, which might also support fixed wireless. But I doubt that a mobile network is in Viasat’s plans, as it would be extremely difficult to compete in that market.
More likely, Viasat is looking at providing fixed wireless as an alternative to its traditional satellite broadband offering.
Companies that submitted incomplete applications have until November 2 to submit complete applications, according to an FCC public notice.
A list of C-band bidders that submitted complete applications is available at this link.
The list of entities that submitted incomplete applications is at this link.