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AT&T, Dish Top List Of FCC’s 3.45 GHz Auction Winners

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By Monica Alleven 

AT&T spent more than US$9.1 billion and Dish Networks wasn’t too far behind, spending a total of US$7.3 billion in the FCC’s 3.45 GHz auction, aka Auction 110.

The auction ended in November, but the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)has just released the names of the winners  after concluding the assignment phase.

T-Mobile bid more than US$2.9 billion, but Verizon was a no-show after having spent a bundle on the C-band 3.7 GHz auction. Three Forty-Five Spectrum LLC spent over US$1.3 billion to come in at No. 4, with UScellular rounding out the top five, spending over US$579 million. 

As a commissioner and before becoming chairwoman of the FCC, Jessisa Rosenworcel advocated for a lot more mid-band spectrum for 5G in the U.S. Now the FCC says that collectively, the 3.45 GHz band and the neighboring 3.5 GHz and 3.7 GHz bands represent 530 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for 5G.

“Today’s 3.45 GHz auction results demonstrate that the commission’s pivot to mid-band spectrum for 5G was the right move,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “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. This is a direct result of the Commission’s efforts to structure this auction with diversity and competition front of mind.”

AT&T won 1,624 licenses in the 3.45 GHz auction, and Dish, bidding under the name Weminuche LLC, won 1,232 licenses. UScellular acquired 380 licenses, followed by Cherry Wireless LCC with 319. T-Mobile acquired 199 licenses.

While the C-band auction broke records with its US$81.2 billion in gross proceeds, the 3.45 GHz auction was one for the record books as well. With US$22.5 billion in gross proceeds, Auction 110 was the third highest grossing auction in the FCC’s history. 

The 3.45 GHz action makes available 100 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for commercial use across the contiguous United States. Licensees can use it for fixed or mobile uses.

Licenses are divided into ten 10-megahertz blocks based on Partial Economic Areas (PEAs); bidders were limited to a total of four blocks, or 40 MHz, per market.

Analysts expected AT&T to come out as the biggest bidder in the 3.45 GHz auction, but analysts at New Street Research also thought T-Mobile was going to walk away with more than it did. They were predicting T-Mobile to spend in the range of US$6.6 billion and Dish to spend more like US$5 billion.

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