FCC’s 24 GHz auction raises $304M in first day

mmWave
The FCC will make a total of 1.55 gigahertz of spectrum available through Auctions 101 and 102, and will hold three more mmWave auctions during 2019, covering spectrum at 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz. (Getty Images)

The first day of the FCC’s Auction 102 for spectrum at 24 GHz closed with $304 million raised in bids for the millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum. Auction 102 will see nearly 3,000 Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (UMFUS) licenses in the 24.25–24.45 and 24.75–25.25 GHz band for sale.

Auction 102 is following the “clock phase” format, which enables participants to bid on between six or seven 100MHz generic blocks within the FCC’s designated Partial Economic Areas (PEAs) across the country, in a series of successive bids.

Licenses in major metro areas across the United States received the top bids on day one: New York City received $5 million in bids; Los Angeles received $3.9 million, Chicago received $1.87 million, San Francisco received $1.806 million and the Washington D.C.-Baltimore area received $1.57 million. Participants will later have an assignment phase in which winners of generic blocks will be able to bid on specific frequency license assignments.

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The FCC is offering deals to small carriers and rural service providers to incentivize them to deploy 5G services in underserved areas. Rural service providers can receive a 15% discount on their winning bids; and small carriers can receive discounts between 15% and 25%, depending on the company’s recent revenue.

RELATED: 28, 24 GHz auction primer: What to expect before the bidding starts

Participants included AT&T, T-Mobile US, Verizon, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, Dish Network, Starry Spectrum Holdings and Windstream Communications. The FCC still has not disclosed the winning bidders of Auction 101; that will happen after Auction 102 closes.

The auction has been the target of controversy over concerns from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and House members about the spectrum, which they say could impact weather data collection operations in adjacent bands. On March 13, a group of bipartisan Congressional members sent a letter to the FCC (PDF) arguing that the commission should coordinate with NASA, NOAA and the Department of Defense to “ensure that interference issues are adequately addressed” before continuing with the auction. The FCC has chosen to proceed with the auction, despite those concerns.

Auction 102 comes about two months after Auction 101, for 28 GHz spectrum. That auction saw 40 qualified bidders participate and raised $702 million. The FCC will make a total of 1.55 gigahertz of spectrum available through Auctions 101 and 102, and will hold three more mmWave auctions during 2019, covering spectrum at 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz.

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