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In brief: AT&T, Dish Network and T-Mobile cleaned up in the Federal Communications Commission’s latest spectrum auction. In total, 23 bidders took home 4,041 licenses for $22.5 billion – the third highest grossing auction in FCC history.
Bidding for new flexible-use licenses in the 3.45–3.55 GHz band ended back in November but wasn’t finalized until January 4, 2022. The FCC said AT&T led the charge with 1,624 licenses won totaling $9.08 billion, followed by Dish Network (bidding as Weminuche LLC) with $7.33 billion spent for 1,232 licenses. T-Mobile finished in third place, agreeing to shell out $2.9 billion for 199 licenses.
US Cellular picked up 380 licenses but only paid $598 million. Similarly, Cherry Wireless LLC grabbed 319 licenses for $236 million. Verizon, who outspent every other carrier combined in the FCC’s 5G spectrum auction last year, didn’t submit a single bid this time around. If you recall, the carrier spent a total of $45.5 billion for 3,511 licenses in the 2021 auction.
As The Wall Street Journal highlights, spectrum made available in the auction was previously reserved for military use. Wireless providers should be able to use it to help carry 5G signals across urban and suburban areas, helping to meet surging demand from smartphone users for faster data connections while on the go.
“Today’s 3.45 GHz auction results demonstrate that the Commission’s pivot to mid-band spectrum for 5G was the right move,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “I am pleased to see that this auction also is creating opportunities for a wider variety of competitors, including small businesses and rural service providers,” she added.
Of the 23 companies that won spectrum in the auction, 13 of them qualified as small businesses or as entities serving rural communities.