The nation’s three major wireless carriers AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon – along with Cox Communications and 344 other entities — are would-be bidders in the upcoming CBRS auction, according to documents released late yesterday from the FCC.

The auction, to be known as Auction 105 and scheduled to start July 23, will award licenses for mid-band spectrum in the 3550-3650 MHz band. Mid-band spectrum is seeing strong interest worldwide, as many stakeholders see it offering the optimum mixture of bandwidth and coverage for 5G.

The majority of would-be CBRS auction bidders (242) appears on a list of “incomplete applications.” Those applicants have until June 19 to provide the commission with additional detail in order to have their applications reclassified as “complete.” In a public notice, the FCC said it is sending details to applicants that filed incomplete applications about the additional information they must provide.

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CBRS Auction Bidders
AT&T, Cincinnati Bell, Cox, Frontier, U.S. Cellular and Windstream were among the 106 entities that filed complete applications. Entities that filed incomplete applications include Cable One, Consolidated Communications, T-Mobile, Verizon, and W.A.T.C.H.

CBRS licenses will be issued by county – a relatively small license-area size that some hoped would enable smaller rural operators to win licenses in the auction. Whether they will win remains to be determined but scanning the FCC lists reveals numerous rural operator applicants, including some that are likely to use any spectrum wins for mobile and some that are more likely to use the spectrum for fixed service.

Potential CBRS auction bidders Frontier, Windstream and Consolidated Communications also are most likely to use the spectrum for fixed wireless.

A portion of the CBRS band is already available for general authorized access (GAA) use, meaning that operators can use the spectrum on a shared basis using spectrum sharing technology. Entities winning spectrum in the upcoming auction may be able to augment their winnings by also using the GAA portion of the band.

Conversely, entities that don’t win spectrum will have the ability to use spectrum in the licensed portion of the band where it is not in use by licensees. That may be a viable option in rural areas, although in metro areas the licensed portion of the band is unlikely to be unused for long.

A complete list of entities submitting complete applications to be CBRS auction bidders can be found at this link. The list of would-be bidders that submitted incomplete applications is available here.

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