The 28 GHz spectrum auction could end soon

The FCC will end the 28 GHz spectrum auction when there are no more new bids. (FierceWireless)

Action in the FCC’s 28 GHz spectrum auction—dubbed Auction 101—appears to be winding down, and the event could end soon. Total provisionally winning bids hover around $678 million.

Today’s most recent round, Round 51, generated only $488,580 in cumulative new bids. More specifically, the amount of money pledged in bids rose only 0.07% during the auction’s most recent round—that’s far lower than the 0.93% increase during the previous round, and the 3% increase generated at the start of the auction’s Stage 2.

However, the Wall Street analyst firm Morgan Stanley today noted that total bids grew 48% over the past week, and that the total is close to reaching the middle of the firm's $300 million to $1.3 billion predicted range. "The growth rate round over round continues to slow while incremental spend per day has rebounded currently sitting around the mid-$50m level over the past week. Current pricing for the auction sits at $0.011 / MHz-Pop," the firm noted.

The FCC implemented Stage 2 in the auction late last week. In Stage 1, bidders were required to be active on licenses representing at least 80% of their current bidding eligibility. In Stage 2, a bidder must be active on at least 95% of its current bidding eligibility in each round. The change is designed to hasten the end of the auction.

As a result of the implementation of Stage 2, action in the auction jumped. However, that rise in interest appears to have waned; bidders are no longer spending much money on licenses.

The FCC will end the auction when there are no more new bids. The agency will release the identity of the winners following the close of the auction. Companies ranging from Verizon to T-Mobile to Starry have been approved to participate in the auction.

This is the first time in recent history that the FCC has auctioned off so-called millimeter wave spectrum—spectrum that essentially sits above 20 GHz. Such spectrum has long been viewed as “junk” spectrum, but in recent years its value has skyrocketed as wireless network operators look for millimeter wave spectrum licenses for 5G networks.

However, Auction 101 is only offering licenses in smaller locations in around one-fourth of the geographic territory of the United States. Auction 102 is scheduled to start shortly after Auction 101 ends and is scheduled to offer 24 GHz spectrum licenses in prime locations all over the country. As a result, the Wall Street analysts at Cowen predicted that Auction 102 could generate roughly $3.2 billion in provisionally winning bids.