What the CBRS Auction Results Mean for Wireless

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UPDATE Eric Luebchow, Senior Analyst, Vice President – Equity Research at Wells Fargo Securities, has an interesting take on the newly-completed FCC auction of Priority Access Licenses in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band.

In a research note, he stated that the total for net gross bids, $4.5 billion, was “more or less” in line with expectations. He notes the spectrum in the 3.55-3.65 GHz band was made available from the DoD. It’s unusual in that it’s being shared between priority access licenses and general authorized access.

Luebchow’s takeaways: Verizon and DISH Networks were behind 60 percent on net auction proceeds. At $1.89 billion from Verizon and nearly $913 million from DISH, Wells Fargo believes the outcome “solidifies Verizon’s ambitions in mid-band spectrum ahead of the C-band auction.” The company sees DISH making more of an opportunistic play to add mid-band to its portfolio at compelling value.

AT&T was noticeably absent from the auction. Wells Fargo wasn’t surprised and predicts the telecom will look at the upcoming C-band auction in earnest.

All new spectrum being made available is good for towers in theory, according to the analyst. However, that being said, he sees CBRS as primarily a focus for indoor deployments. “Recent checks have shown, however, that Verizon has been working with OEMs for dual-band, dual-radio, antennas that support both CBRS and C-band spectrum,” he states. “If this turns out to be the case, and Verizon is able to secure a big swath of C-band spectrum, we believe that amendment activity might be more material for the towers than what we’ve seen historically.”

The sheer number of auction participants, more than 220, will make for interesting wireless opportunities going forward, Luebchow believes. He noted the number of bidders that don’t have their own wireless networks, such as universities, power companies, cablecos and Wireless Internet Service Providers.   

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