The Federal Communications Commission’s auction of millimeter wave frequencies has raised nearly $690 million. The auction is slated to continue through this week, although bidding has slowed considerably. Four bidding rounds will 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.
Just 133 licenses have not yet received bids. Round 70, held on Friday afternoon and the latest round to be completed, boosted the total provisionally winning bids by $1.5 million and was the only round of last week that broke the $1 million raised per round mark; most of the bidding rounds last week raised the auction total by $500,000 or less.
Two licenses covering Dane, Wisconsin, which have the highest provisionally winning bids as of Round 70: $12.5 million and $11.4 million (they haven’t received new bids since rounds 45 and 46). Two licenses covering Honolulu, Hawaii, each have bids of $10.2 million and $10 million placed in rounds 21 and 23 respectively. The six highest license bids are rounded out by two licenses covering Linn, Iowa at $9.9 million and $9.8 million, placed during rounds 49 and 50.
High bids received in Round 70 bumped up the provisionally winning bids for licenses covering Cumberland, Maine to $5.3 million and Peoria, Illinois to $5.2 million; all other received bids in the round were less than $1 million.
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.” A few licenses are going for as low as $200, and quite a number of licenses have provisionally winning bids of less than $5,000.
If the auction is still going on by Friday, the FCC plans to suspend bidding early Friday afternoon, ahead of the Christmas holiday. Bidding will resume on Thursday, January 3.
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