Spectrum Sharing Shows Potential Worth in CBRS Auction

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Industry reacted favorably to the conclusion of the FCC’s auction of Citizens Broadband Radio Systems (CBRS) licenses. Gross bids totaled more than $4.5 billion after 76 rounds. Bidders won 20,625 of 22,631, or more than 91.1 percent, of available Priority Access Licenses in the 3550-3650 MHz band.

Louis Peraertz, VP of Policy for the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, called $4.585 billion “a lot of shekels.” WISPA believes it reflects confidence in the CBRS sharing model to find and better employ underused spectrum. “Indications are emerging that the auction resulted in robust competition outside of the top 20 markets, far exceeding expectations. This participation reveals the growth and viability of the fixed wireless model in bringing internet connectivity to the very hardest to reach Americans.” 

Sasha Javid, COO of BitPath and a former FCC official, did a deep dive in his blog, stating that the price per MHz-POP of $0.217 on all blocks sold in the auction was “surprising.” He called the price “very impressive” especially “for a spectrum band that will require winners to limit power levels and to share the band on with government incumbents such as the U.S. Navy.”  

Javid also highlighted as noteworthy some of the prices for individual counties. Among the 20 largest, Orange County led the way at $0.912 per MHz-POP, followed by Cook County (Chicago) at $0.767 and San Diego at $0.685. New York finished at a “still very robust” $0.627 and Los Angeles finished at $0.530, according to Javid.

Given that Los Angeles County was the largest county by far, it also generated the most gross proceeds at $364,503,167.

Two key takeaways for Javid: (1) The apparent genuine interest in acquiring spectrum blocks in rural Midwestern and Western counties. (2) The persistent demand that caused this auction to deviate in its progression from prior FCC clock auctions.

He believes the results bode well for the C-band auction currently slated for December. 

And at the FCC, Chairman Ajit Pai called the auction “a resounding success. The strong demand for licenses was the direct result of this Commission’s reforms to the rules for the 3.5 GHz band—reforms that would not have been possible without the leadership and hard work of my colleague, Commissioner Mike O’Rielly.”

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