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IN : 5G auctions 5G spectrum

Highly coveted US auction for 3.7 GHz spectrum reached 81.1 billion USD after 2 months

The FCC considers auctioning 2.5 GHz and 3.45 GHz bands later in 2021

The largest mid-band auction in the USA to date ended on 17 February 2021 after a little more than 2 months. The 8 December 2020-15 January 2021 clock phase was followed by the assignment phase, which kicked off on 8 February 2021 and ended on 17 February 2021. Auction 107 net winning bids totalled 81.1 billion USD (66.3 billion EUR) for 280 MHz of spectrum (3.7-3.98 GHz). Twenty-one bidders won all of the available 5,684 licences on offer in PEAs (Partial Economic Areas). Verizon (Cellco Partnership) and AT&T (AT&T Spectrum Frontiers) appear to be the biggest spenders.

Verizon in particular spent approximately twice as much as AT&T. It paid 45.4 billion USD in bids for 3,511 licences while AT&T’s bids totalled 23.4 billion USD for 1,621 licences won. T-Mobile ranked third far behind the two leaders with “only” 9.4 billion USD and 142 licences: T-Mobile did not rush in because it already owns a lot of mid-band spectrum thanks to its Sprint acquisition in 2020. Conversely, Verizon and AT&T 5G services cannot enjoy this competitive advantage with less prime spectrum for 5G. They majorly rely on millimetre wave spectrum and on low-band spectrum.

Satellite operators agreed to leave 3.7-4.0 GHz frequencies and use 4.0-4.2 GHz spectrum.  The clearing of 3.7-3.82 GHz spectrum is expected by 5 December 2021. The clearing of the remaining spectrum plus 180 MHz from 3.82-4.0 GHz will end two years later by 5 December 2023.

The FCC considers auctioning 2.5 GHz and 3.45 GHz bands later in 2021.

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