Bidding began today in the Federal Communications Commission’s largest-ever spectrum auction. The latest Spectrum Frontiers auction of millimeter wave bands has raised more than $637 million in its first round of bidding.
More than 14,100 licenses are up for grabs across three mmWave bands in Auction 103: the upper 37 GHz band (37.6-38.6 GHz), the 39 GHz band (38.6-40 GHz) and the 47 GHz band (47.2-48.2 GHz). The licenses are based on a Partial Economic Area geographic basis which divides the country into 416 sections.
There is more spectrum available at 39 GHz than in the other two bands, with 14 blocks of 100 megahertz available, or 5,824 individual licenses. The 47 GHz and upper 37 GHz bands each have 4,160 licenses available, or 10 blocks of 100 megahertz in each PEA. The FCC has authorized either fixed or mobile use in the bands, and the commission has emphasized the sheer amount of spectrum available: at 3,400 megahertz, it’s the largest amount of spectrum ever offered in an auction.
“Auctioning the 39 GHz and upper 37 GHz bands together presents a critical opportunity for 5G deployment as it represents the largest amount of contiguous spectrum available in the millimeter-wave bands,” said Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement on the start of bidding. “Notably, we’re setting up the Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz auction to be our second-ever incentive auction. This one will be different from the broadcast incentive auction that Congress authorized years ago, but it’ll have the same worthy goal: clearing or repacking existing licensees to make spectrum as useful as possible, boosting competition and benefiting consumers.”
There are 35 qualified bidders competing for spectrum in Auction 103, which, like the previous mmWave auction this year, is using a clock format for the first phase. In the clock phase, prices automatically increase each round, until bidders’ demand for licenses at a certain price matches the supply. As of the first round, 204 license “products” had demand that outstripped the available supply, while 614 had more supply than demand. Fourteen had evenly matched supply and demand.
As is typical, licenses in dense urban areas — New York City; Los Angeles and San Francisco, California; Chicago, Illinois; and the Baltimore-Washington D.C.-area — were the most hotly contested from the get-go.
One more round of bidding will be held today, with another three rounds scheduled for tomorrow.
“Pushing more spectrum into the commercial marketplace is a key component of our 5G Fast plan to advance American leadership in the next generation of wireless connectivity,” Pai said, noting that the FCC expects to hold two auctions of mid-band spectrum next year: its Priority Access License auction for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service spectrum at 3.5 GHz in late June, and a C-Band spectrum auction “in the latter part of 2020.”