C-Band Auction Begins


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After more than a year of jockeying, the FCC began the C-band auction Tuesday. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are all expected to be active bidders. The Commission is making available 280 MHz of mid-band spectrum in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band.

“WIA members are thrilled this historic auction will at last put this spectrum to its highest and best use to deploy 5G across the country. This band enables more than capacity alone – this large block is critical for 5G. Given how much effort it took to get this much spectrum to auction, we thank Chairman Pai and the FCC for their success in getting it done,” WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein told Inside Towers

There are 57 qualified bidders in Auction 107. Gross proceeds as of the first round yesterday were more than $1 billion, according to the FCC, at exactly $1,741,759,100. The auction kicks into higher gear today with three bidding rounds planned. 

Auction 107 is offering 5,684 new flexible-use overlay licenses based on Partial Economic Areas (PEAs) in the C-band. Analysts at BitPath noted the largest PEA (by population) after round one was New York City. There were 268 PEAS where the supply was less than demand after round one and 38 PEAs equaled demand, according to the analyst. One hundred PEAs were greater than the demand. There were no PEAs with absolutely no demand.  

According to the FCC, the C-band is potentially prime mid-band spectrum for 5G services, given its combination of geographic coverage and capacity. The Commission says its auction procedures will ensure the assignment to auction winners of contiguous spectrum blocks. This will allow wide channel bandwidths that support 5G deployment.

In August, the agency established bidding procedures for the auction, specifically:

  • Bidding procedures for the clock and assignment phases of the auction, including two clock phase categories of generic blocks in the 46 PEAs where certain blocks are subject to the first early clearing deadline of December 2021.
  • An assignment phase in which winning bidders for blocks subject to the first early clearing timeline will be assigned both interim and final contiguous frequency-specific license assignments.
  • Upfront payment and minimum opening bid amounts for bidding on the licenses as well as bidding credit caps for rural service providers and small businesses, including a cap on the overall amount of bidding credits a small business bidder may apply to winning licenses in smaller markets.

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