FCC Kicks Off Mid-Band Spectrum Auction

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The FCC’s mid-band spectrum auction got off to a slow start yesterday compared to the blistering bidding pace of the previous, C-band auction. Auction 110 is offering 4,060 new flexibleuse licenses for spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band to support next generation wireless services – including 5G. 

Thirty-three qualified entities are bidding, including AT&T, T-Mobile and UScellular. The FCC set a reserve price of $14.77 billion. That’s because auction proceeds must cover 110 percent of the expected sharing and repacking costs for federal users currently operating in the band, based on an estimate from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. 

Gross proceeds after Round 2 were more than $672 million and just over $609 million after Round 1. Bidding in the first phase of the auction, the clock phase, began at 10 a.m. ET with two rounds—both lasting two hours each. That will increase to three, shorter rounds today.

The 100 MHz of spectrum available in Auction 110 will be licensed on an unpaired basis divided into ten, 10 MHz blocks in Partial Economic Areas (PEAs) located in the contiguous 48 states and the District of Columbia (PEAs 1–41, 43–211, 213–263, 265–297, 299–359, and 361–411). These 10 MHz blocks are designated as A through J, as seen in the graphic.

The FCC and the Department of Defense have imposed coordination requirements on the winners of certain licenses in this band. That’s because licensees are expected to share the 3.45-3.55 GHz band with critical military radar operations that cannot vacate the band. Before a licensee begins operations in a Cooperative Planning Area or Periodic Use Area, it must first successfully coordinate with the federal incumbent(s) associated with that area. More information about the cooperative sharing requirements, including information about the encumbrances in specific PEAs, is here. 

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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