FCC Airwaves Auction Brings in $4.5 Billion for U.S. Treasury

March 12, 2020, 3:51 PM

The Federal Communications Commission has concluded its latest auction of 5G-friendly airwaves after raising more than $4.5 billion for the U.S. Treasury.

Twenty-eight companies, including entities controlled by AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., and T-Mobile US Inc., bid for spectrum licenses in the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands, the agency announced. The auction opened up 3,400 MHz of millimeter-wave spectrum for telecom providers.

“The successful conclusion of Auction 103—the largest amount of spectrum offered in an auction in U.S. history—is one more significant step the FCC has taken toward maintaining American leadership in 5G,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

Telecom providers bid more than $7.5 billion for spectrum licenses. About $3 billion of proceeds will be doled out to companies that agreed to relinquish their rights to the airwaves auction in the 39 GHz band, while the remaining $4.5 billion will go to the U.S. Treasury.

High-band airwaves, such as millimeter-wave spectrum, are valuable for 5G networks because they offer lightning-fast speeds, but the signals only travel several hundred feet. Carriers see mid-band spectrum like the C-band as most vital to building out dense 5G networks because it offers a mix of fast speeds and greater coverage.

The agency aims to auction off C-band spectrum in December. 5G networks will be built with a combination of low-, mid- and high-band frequencies.

The FCC last year collectively raised about $2.7 billion for the U.S. Treasury in auctions of spectrum in the 24 GHz and 28 GHz bands.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Reid in Washington at jreid@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Melissa B. Robinson at mrobinson@bloomberglaw.com, Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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