After 17 rounds of bidding, the Federal Communications Commission’s Spectrum Frontiers current auction of millimeter wave spectrum has hit $3 billion in bids.
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.
The FCC has divided the spectrum into two categories of licenses: 24 100-MHz licenses in the 37 and 39 GHz frequency blocks, the MN or M/N licenses, and ten 100-MHz licenses in the 47 GHz frequency block, the P licenses.
Sasha Javid, COO at the Spectrum Consortium and former chief data officer and legal advisor on the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, has been following the auction and posting analysis on his blog. He has pointed out that the demand for the MN licenses is higher than for the P licenses.
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. But while the licenses covering New York City currently have the highest posted prices, ranging from around $14.5 million to $19.2 million, the most expensive licenses on a price per megahertz/POP basis are actually the MN licenses for Milwaukee, Wisconsin (at $0.019930 per megahertz/POP), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma ($0.009595 per megahertz/POP) and Las Vegas, Nevada ($0.007888 per megahertz/POP), according to Javid’s analysis.
There are 35 qualified bidders competing for spectrum in Auction 103, which, like Auction 102, is using a clock format for the first phase. In the clock phase, bidders compete for the license type they desire, with prices automatically increase each round, until bidders’ demand for licenses at a certain price matches the supply. An assignment phase for specific spectrum blocks will follow the clock phase.
“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,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement as the auction began, 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.”
Three rounds of bidding per day are being held in this stage of the auction. Bidding will pause at the end of the day on Friday and resume on Monday, January 6.