FCC's 24 GHz Auction Total Inches Toward $2 Billion

Bidding increases only a few thousand dollars per round
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Bidding in the FCC's 24 GHz auction has slowed to a trickle as the total nears $2 billion, though it is unclear if it will make that figure, with recent rounds seeing the total rise by only a few thousand dollars per round, with only one license where demand is currently greater than supply.

The total has only increased a little over $33,000 between rounds 80 and round 84, from $1,988,801,514 to $1,988,834,714

The FCC boosted the number of rounds from three to five back on Thursday, April 4, and shortened the rounds from an hour to a half hour to goose the bidding.

Bids in the top two markets, New York and L.A., remain at $41,113,000 and $31,635,000, respectively, where they have been since at least round 27.

The FCC is auctioning the spectrum to free up more bandwidth for 5G wireless broadband, to help close the rural digital divide, and to make wireless a stronger competitor to wired broadband.

The millimeter-wave (high-band) auction opened March 14 and is being held in two phases. Initial bidding (clock phase) is on generic spectrum, with a follow-on auction (assignment phase) among the winners for specific frequencies.

The clock auction means the FCC continues to raise prices automatically after each round, so long as there is more demand than supply, until there are not bidders left, high bidder at that point wins.

The initial license periods are not to exceed 10 years. There are also build-out requirements—so the spectrum can't be warehoused but must be used as advertised. Bidding credits were available for rural service, small businesses and tribal lands, capped at $25 million.

The 24 GHz spectrum is divided into a lower and higher portion, the lower (24.25 – 24.45 GHz and 24.75 – 25.25 GHz) being licenses as two, 100-MHz blocks and the upper (24.75 – 25.25 GHz) licenses as five, 100 MHz blocks.

When this auction is completed, the FCC will reveal the winning bidders in the previous, 28 GHz, auction. Last week it announced it would be holding its third 5G spectrum auction of the year starting in December. 

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