FCC 5G spectrum auction results

Joshua Cox-Steib

Sep 2, 2020 — 3 min read

T-Mobile, Verizon eye 5G service expansion with additional spectrum licenses.

Some of the big players in internet service and communications are hard at work growing their 5G networks with their newly won Federal Communications Commission (FCC) spectrum licenses.

T-Mobile obtained enough licenses to extend coverage to over 80 million more people. The company is expanding its 5G network in anticipation of increasing its customer base for both mobile and broadband internet services.

Verizon has contributed over $46 billion in bids on recent C-band auctions aimed at selling licenses for the 500-megahertz segment of the spectrum from 3.7 to 4.2 gigahertz. Verizon plans to use these C-band licenses to extend access to their 5G network to up to 250 million people by 2024. With this addition to its holdings, Verizon is more than doubling its mid-band coverage.  

Spectrum, Cox, AT&T and Windstream are also among the major internet service providers that expanded their spectrum ownership.

The winners of the last five FCC spectrum auctions

Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz Auction 103 top winners:

  • Straight Path Spectrum, LLC, total bid of $3,417,133,445
  • T-Mobile License LLC, total bid of $931,609,379
  • Window Wireless L.L.C., total bid of $202,532,574
  • United States Cellular Corporation, total bid of $146,342,281

3.5 GHz Band Auction 105 top winners:

  • Verizon Wireless Network Procurement LP, total bid of $1,893,791,991
  • Wetterhorn Wireless L.L.C., total bid of $912,939,410
  • Spectrum Wireless Holdings, LLC, total bid of $464,251,209
  • XF Wireless Investment, LLC, total bid of $458,725,900
  • Cox Communications, Inc, total bid of $212,805,412
  • Southern California Edison Company, total bid of $118,951,433
  • Windstream Services LLC, Debtor-In-Possession, total bid of $38,534,863

3.7 GHz Service Auction 107 top winners:

  • Cellco Partnership, total bid of $36,363,874,557.60
  • AT&T Spectrum Frontiers LLC, total bid of $18,725,488,671.20
  • T-Mobile License LLC, total bid of $7,468,900,117.60
  • United States Cellular Corporation, total bid of $1,026,113,233.60
  • NewLevel II, L.P., total bid of $1,021,916,550.40

2.5 GHz Band Auction 108 top winners:

  • T-Mobile License LLC, total bid of $304,325,290.00
  • PTI Pacifica Inc., total bid of $14,152,000.00
  • TeleGuam Holdings, LLC, total bid of $13,252,000.00
  • Evergy Kansas Central, total bid of $10,195,520.00
  • Cellular South Licenses, LLC, total bid of $9,489,040.00

3.45 GHz Service Auction 110 top winners:

  • Weminuche L.L.C., total bid of $5,862,391,432.00
  • Three Forty-Five Spectrum, LLC, total bid of $1,103,591,586.40
  • T-Mobile License LLC total bid of $2,318,735,196.00
  • AT&T Auction Holdings, LLC, total bid of $7,263,341,992.80
  • United States Cellular Corporation, total bid of $463,717,220.80

How does a spectrum auction work?

In the U.S., anyone who wants to use frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum must purchase a license from the government, with different frequencies used for different purposes.

The FCC depends on special legislation from Congress to maintain its ability to auction spectrum licenses. This function of the FCC was first assigned to them in 1993 and was expanded in 2016 to help companies develop 5G networks. However, the FCC’s authority to hold spectrum auctions ends on Sept. 30, 2022. While the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to extend this authority into 2024, the Senate has yet to vote on the matter.

No, your favorite telecom CEOs don’t gather in one room with bidding paddles at the ready. Instead, the FCC uses special software that allows interested parties to enter a call where they can place their bids.

It’s all done anonymously and can take weeks for larger auctions. In the case of the most recent mid-band spectrum auction, it began on June 25 and lasted for a full two months. 

What’s next?

While there are no more 2022 FCC spectrum auctions scheduled, for now, the agency may very well be prepared to put more on the table when and if Congress renews its auction authority. Over the last couple of years, the FCC has auctioned off billions of dollars in licensing for 5G spectrum.

Until the September deadline, however, the FCC remains in charge of distributing spectrum licenses. If Congress doesn’t renew that authority, there is currently no backup system to replace the FCC in distributing these licenses. But with demand and growth being what it is, we can expect this issue to be central to telecommunication policy in the near future.

What does this all mean for the average American? Expect to see 5G coming to a town near you sooner than you might have thought. Each wireless carrier is gobbling up as much of this valuable 5G spectrum as they can get their hands on.

They didn’t pay to sit on it, either. Sooner than later, it will be coming to your phone.

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Joshua Cox-Steib

Written by:

Joshua Cox-Steib

Joshua Cox-Steib is a writer and contributor for the Allconnect team, focusing on broadband and satellite internet. Joshua holds a degree in sociology from the University of Tulsa and worked as a behavioral anal… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

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