The C-band auction smashed all expectations, hitting over $81.2 billion in bids. And yesterday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the names of the Auction 107 C-band winners and how much they bid. Not surprisingly, the big wireless carriers spent the biggest bucks, with Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile contributing about 96% of the total auction spend.
But they had to pay dearly for the spectrum, which will present financial challenges in the short term, but will be great investments in the long term. “It is likely, therefore that in the short-term the auction ‘winners’ will be market losers and vice versa,” wrote New Street Research analyst Blair Levin.
Surprisingly, Dish Network spent less than $3 million to obtain just one license in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The company has been doing 5G trials in that city.
Telecom consultant Richard Engelman, who spoke on a New Street Research call today, said he didn’t know for sure why Dish didn’t make a big play for C-band in the 3.7–3.98 GHz band. The company has a reputation for participating in spectrum auctions. He speculated that this go-round Dish only participated to drive up the prices for its competitors, but once it saw the high interest from the other wireless providers it dropped out.
He also pointed out that this week the FCC moved faster than anyone expected to make 100 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band available for auction and 5G deployment. The FCC could make “that spectrum available very quickly, potentially more quickly than the Phase 2 spectrum in the C-band,” said Engelman.
The FCC is proposing to structure the 3.45-3.55 GHz spectrum auction similar to the C-band auction in terms of partial economic areas, band sizes and technical rules. And Dish may be saving its powder for that auction.
In terms of cable's participation in the C-band auction, that was a complete dud. Comcast, Charter and Cox bought nothing.
Flip through our story for a look at each of the top five C-band winners.