Clock Stage of C-Band Auction Ends With Over $80B in Bids

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The clock stage of the C-band auction closed after 97 rounds Friday. The total gross bids nearly reached $81 billion. According to the agency, the exact dollar figure was $80,916,832,754.

Fifty-seven qualified bidders in Auction 107 were vying for 5,684 new flexible-use overlay licenses based on Partial Economic Areas in the C-band. BitPath analyst COO Sasha Javid said in a LinkedIn post the nationwide average price per MHz-POP across all categories in this auction was $0.942. This is roughly 4.3 times the $0.217 price per MHz-POP that spectrum sold for in the recent CBRS auction, he noted.

Bidders included AT&T, Cox, T-Mobile, Verizon and UScellular. Bidders that won big “besides Verizon” won’t be known until after the assignment phase, according to Javid. 

The FCC will hold a second follow-up auction among the winners of the spectrum licenses who want specific frequencies. For that, the Commission says its auction procedures will ensure contiguous spectrum blocks are assigned. This will allow wide channel bandwidths that support 5G deployment, the agency has explained.

Last February, the Commission adopted rules for the C-band (3.7-4.2 GHz), which allocated the lower 280 megahertz (3.7-3.98 GHz band) for flexible terrestrial wireless services, with a 20-megahertz guard band at 3.98-4.0 GHz. 

Bidding began on December 8, 2020 after more than a year of negotiations. Several Commission officials have called the gross bids for this auction the highest ever, nearly double, for any FCC-conducted spectrum auction.

Auction 107 is complicated by the fact that multiple satellite operators and earth stations operate in the lower portion of the band. They now have access to the entire band. Satellite companies have told Inside Towers this “full band, full arc” concept gives them ample spectrum to use when transmitting live television and cable programming, enabling them to change satellite channels on the fly in case of a mishap.

Under the rules adopted by the Commission, they must repack their operations from the band’s entire 500 megahertz into the upper 200 megahertz (4.0-4.2 GHz). The first phase of that repack is scheduled to end by December 2021.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told the American Enterprise Institute Friday that enticement payments to incumbent satellite operators that move early will help clear the spectrum faster for wireless use. “We expect that 5G services will be deployed with this spectrum two to four years faster that we might otherwise have expected without these accelerated relocation payments. In the race for global leadership in 5G innovation, four years is the difference between being a leader or a laggard,” said Pai.

The telecom industry is pleased with how the auction is proceeding. “This record-breaking spectrum auction demonstrates the wireless industry’s commitment to leading the emerging 5G economy and underscores the importance of developing a robust pipeline of spectrum auctions,” said CTIA President/CEO Meredith Attwell Baker.

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