Auction must raise a reserve price of $14.7 billion
The Federal Communications Commission is kicking off its auction of additional midband spectrum at 3.45-3.55 GHz, with two rounds of bidding today.
Starting tomorrow, three rounds of bidding will be held each day. The auction reserve price is $14.7 billion. The first phase of the auction consists of clock rounds, with the price of each block rising 10% per round until the number of bidders still willing to pay that price meets the number of available licenses.
There are 33 qualified bidders participating in the 3.45 GHz auction, also known as Auction 110. All three national cellular network operators are participating, as well as Dish Network (reportedly bidding under the name Weminuche LLC), US Cellular and a number of small and regional network operators. Telecom-focused private equity company Grain Management, which bid $1.277 billion for 10 C-Band licenses and was the fifth-highest bidder overall, is participating as NewLevel III.
The auction offers up 100 megahertz of prized midband spectrum, divided into ten 10-megahertz blocks, licensed by geographic areas known as Partial Economic Areas (PEAs), for a total of 4,060 flexible-use licenses across the contiguous United States. But there are some caveats that come along with the use of the band. The FCC has placed some limitations on how much of it that any single bidder can accumulate: Bidders can’t hold more than four out of the 10 available licenses in a given PEA, or 40 megahertz of spectrum. In addition, there are nearly three dozen areas around the country where licenses winners will have to coordinate their use of the band with existing incumbent military systems; those areas include military training facilities, Navy home ports, shipyards and military test sites. The Department of Defense has been using the 3.45 GHz band for high- and low-powered radar systems, including fixed, mobile, shipborne and airborne systems, as well as testing and training related to those systems.
The FCC has noted that the 3.45 GHz band, plus the neighboring 3.5 GHz CBRS band and the 3.7 GHz C Band spectrum, represent 530 megahertz of contiguous midband spectrum for 5G. Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that the build-out requirements for 3.45 GHz are the “most aggressive build-out obligations of any spectrum auctioned for 5G to date. … We insist on getting infrastructure built twice as fast as what the agency has required in other recent 5G bands.”
Those build-out benchmarks include providing service to at least 45% of the population in areas where bidders win licenses within four years, and at least 80% of the population within eight years for mobile or point-to-multipoint services. If the licenses are used for IoT services, winners have to build out to 35% of the geographic area won within four years and 65% of the geographic area within eight years.
Looking for more insights on midband spectrum? Download RCR Wireless News’ recent editorial report, Minding the Midband, and check out the accompanying webinar featuring experts from Aurora Insight, Analog Devices and LitePoint.