The clock phase of Auction 110 of mid-band spectrum between 3.45-3.55 GHz has concluded, raising $21.8 billion. All but 19 of the 4,060 available licenses had winning bids.
Winning bidders will not be known until the assignment phase of the auction is concluded. Thirty-three companies qualified to bid in the auction.
In the assignment phase, winners bid for specific spectrum blocks within the 3.45-3.55 GHz spectrum band. Typically, total auction proceeds increase only slightly after that phase.
Mid-band spectrum is in high demand because it is widely viewed as providing the optimum mix of speed and coverage for 5G. Licenses in Auction 110 sold for an average of $0.666 per MHz per person (MHz pop) in the coverage area, according to Sasha Javid, chief operating officer for BitPath, who has been doing a detailed daily analysis of auction results.
In general, Auction 110 winners will pay less per MHz pop in comparison with what Auction 107 (C-band) winners paid but more than Auction 105 CBRS band winners paid, according to Javid. Those other two auctions also included mid-band spectrum and the C-band auction was record breaking.
Javid notes that the CBRS licenses were subject to power restraints, making them less valuable. He didn’t offer an opinion on why Auction 110 licenses were less costly than Auction 107 licenses (on a MHz-pop basis), but perhaps the disparity is related to license size.
While Auction 107 licenses were for 20 MHz of spectrum, Auction 110 licenses were for 10 MHz of spectrum – and although the MHz-pop analysis normalizes for the difference, perhaps the wider spectrum bands are simply seen as more versatile or valuable.
There also was more spectrum available in Auction 107 (280 MHz in total, compared to 100 MHz in Auction 110), which also may have contributed to the disparity in what bidders were willing to pay.
Licenses in Auction 107 and Auction 110 were for partial economic areas (PEAs) – relatively large license areas that generally are out of reach for smaller network operators, but which are preferred by national carriers. Auction 105 licenses were by county, which also may have contributed to their lower value, in comparison with licenses in the other two auctions.