Bidding in the Federal Communications Commission’s current auction of millimeter wave spectrum hit a lull yesterday, although it bounced back this morning with a round garnering $21 million in bids. Auction 101 has now raised nearly $580 million in bids, with three additional rounds of bidding to be held today.
Auction 101 includes just over 3,000 county-based licenses in two 425-megahertz blocks of spectrum at 27.5 – 27.925 GHz and 27.925 – 28.350 GHz. Bidding began with forty qualified bidders. The auction kicked off with a burst of activity, raising $36.4 million in bids during the first round, followed by tepid bidding that never reached more than about $11 million per round before bidding was paused for Thanksgiving. But after the holiday, bids picked up, with the dollar figure for each round of bidding running between $16 million to $20 million per round.
Yesterday, all four rounds raised less than $10 million each. But this morning’s round 43 shot up to $21 million, as the FCC nudged the auction along by moving into its Stage Two of bidding. In that stage, bidders must be active on at least 95% of their current bidding eligibility in each round, or else use a waiver or have their eligibility reduced.
The number of licenses without bids continues to be whittled down, with the FCC still holding 213 licenses.
Notable new developments in the most recent round include:
-The single highest bid is now $11 million for a license covering Dane, Wisconsin. That bid for the Wisconsin license has unseated the two licenses covering Honolulu, Hawaii as the most expensive licenses. The Hawaii licenses were bid up to $10 million and $10.2 million in earlier rounds.
-A second license covering Dane received a bid of nearly $9 million.
-Thirteen bids were withdrawn during Round 43, mostly in South Carolina, Alabama and Michigan.
With significant amounts of millimeter wave spectrum already held by carriers such as Verizon (which beat out AT&T in a bidding war for Straight Path that was driven by its high-band spectrum holdings) and AT&T (which acquired Fibertower and its mmWave spectrum holdings), Auction 101 isn’t expected to be a record-breaker for money raised, although FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said that this spectrum “will be critical in deploying 5G services and applications.”