FCC's 28 GHz auction comes to anticlimactic finish

FCC 28 GHz spectrum auction map ( Stephen Wilkus / Spectrum Financial Partners)
The FCC's 28 GHz spectrum auction has concluded with $702,472,410 in total provisionally winning bids. (Stephen Wilkus/Spectrum Financial Partners)

The FCC’s auction of 28 GHz spectrum, dubbed Auction 101, is officially over more than two months after it began. After 176 rounds of bidding spread across 38 days of bidding activity, the auction generated a total of $702,572,410 in provisionally winning bids.

The results are undeniably lackluster for what FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called “our nation’s first high-band 5G spectrum auction,” but the forthcoming 24 GHz spectrum auction is expected to generate much more interest because it covers more big city markets that will draw higher bids. Previous spectrum auctions, particularly AWS-3 and 600 MHz, generated tens of billions of dollars, but they were also in the low- and midbands, which are highly sought-after licenses.

“The FCC will continue to aggressively push more spectrum into the commercial marketplace,” Pai said in a prepared statement following the conclusion of Auction 101. “Our 24 GHz auction will begin soon, and we will then hold an auction of three more spectrum bands later this year.”

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The 28 GHz spectrum auction ended with 40 qualified bidders and 2,965 licenses with provisionally winning bids out of a total of 3,072 licenses up for grabs. The auction began Nov. 14 and closed Jan. 24 when no new bids were placed. The FCC has suspended most of its operations since Jan. 3 due to the partial government shutdown, but the spectrum auction continued without interruption because staffers that manage spectrum auction are paid out of auction proceeds.

“By making more spectrum available, promoting the deployment of wireless infrastructure, and modernizing our regulations—the three components of the FCC’s 5G FAST plan—we’ll ensure that American consumers reap the substantial benefits that will come from the next generation of wireless connectivity,” Pai said.

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