AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Dish Network were the big winners in the AWS-3 auction that closed this week, winning licenses not only for larger “economic areas” but also being among the largest winners of smaller “cellular market area” licenses. The CMA licenses were awarded in the G-block of the AWS-3 band, which separates the U.S. into 734 individual markets. All other AWS-3 licenses were awarded on an economic area basis, which divides the country into just 176 markets.
The biggest winner in the G-block was Dish which according to Reuters has indirect ownership in Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless. Those two companies together won approximately 300 G-block licenses. No national carrier won more than 100 G-block licenses.
Regional carrier U.S. Cellular won approximately 100, however, bidding under the name Advantage Spectrum, L.P.
The Small AWS-3 License Winners
The smaller CMA licenses were included in the auction, in part, to enable smaller companies to have the opportunity to win licenses. But achieving that goal appears to have been more difficult than usual considering that the money raised in the AWS-3 auction overall far surpassed virtually everyone’s expectations.
There were about a dozen small rural network operators among the winners, none of which won more than a few licenses.
Some of these companies bid under alternative names or as board members of rural service provider companies. But based on ownership information from law firm Hogan Lovells, the winning rural carriers include:
- Farmers Telephone Cooperative
- Central Texas Telephone Cooperative
- Pioneer Telephone Cooperative
- Gila River Telecommunications
- Emery Telcom
- Northeast Colorado Cellular
- Triangle Cooperative Association
- Chester Telephone Company
- Sandhill Telephone Cooperative
- Nsight Spectrum
Also among the winners were some individual investors or investor groups who likely will not build out the spectrum but instead will probably sell their winnings to other companies.
What is Dish Up To?
Dish has conducted trials of a fixed wireless broadband offering using cellular spectrum that it says could be an attractive option in areas lacking landline broadband alternatives. But many of the licenses that the company won are in major metro areas such as New York, Los Angeles-Anaheim, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit-Ann Arbor.