FCC speeds up AWS-3 auction as bids reach $41 billion


For the past few weeks, a major spectrum auction has been taking place, with AWS-3 (1700/2100) airwaves going up for sale in a number of markets across the U.S. A couple of weeks back it was reported that Verizon, AT&T and Dish Network had been having a lot of fun, flexing their financial muscles and pushing the overall bid total above $31 billion.

As it stands, the total has now reached $41 billion after 50 rounds of bidding.

As you’d expect, the number of new bids in each round is decreasing, and so the FCC has decided to shorten the bidding rounds to allow for more rounds each day, speeding up the entire auction process. Instead of having four one-hour rounds each day, there will now be six 30-minute rounds. The Commission stated that it “sets the pace of the auction based upon the bidding activity and our assessment of the auction’s progress.”.

While extra AWS spectrum would be useful for T-Mobile to continue its expansion, it’s more important for the carrier to focus its attention on lower frequencies. Like the many 700MHz spectrum deals it’s completed, or is about to complete.

We don’t have any specifics on how much of the AWS-3 spectrum T-Mobile is hoping to acquire, and we don’t know how much it has spent. Once the auction is finished, we should get a clearer picture.

Sources: Wireless Week, FCC, PhoneScoop

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  • Eric

    If my calculations are correct:

    AT&T and Verizon are two desperate companies for AWS-3.

    • Justin Smith

      Both companies don’t desperately need aws spectrum. They are only using it to bolster capacity not add more coverage

      • Mr Paul

        100% correct. They want the spectrum for two reasons I’d imagine. One, to add the capacity, like you said, and subsequently more speed. And two, that then takes a big load off the 700 MHz which is then more properly used by people in buildings or outside of the comfort zone of the higher frequencies and makes an overall faster and more reliable network.

        Not to mention AT&T has future plans for AWS, PCS and even WCS and VZW has plans for AWS “XLTE” and PCS (converted 3G). When they both have this, T-Mo will have nothing; not speed, not capacity, not anything, on the “duopolists”.

        Like I said to someone else, T-Mo needs low frequencies to survive outside of cities.

        • Tyler Kirchman

          T-Mobile is also going to do PCs LTE so they are all going to have the same thing. T-Mobile is going to give us unlimited data plans while still beating the other guys price.

        • Mr Paul

          Yes, Einstein, it is cheaper in the cities they cover. But with those high frequencies, it doesn’t cover squat. That is EXACTLY why people hated the old Sprint.

          This is everyone else’s problem: Would you rather pay 92 dollars after tax for unlimited T-Mobile 2G, or 90-105 dollars after tax for plenty of data from AT&T with almost exclusive LTE and at worst, the occasional HSPA+ fallback?

          Not to mention, if you’re like me and you live in an area where no carrier offers anything faster than 10-20 megabits down/up, then Cricket is also a great option. Same deal as T-Mobile, xGB of highspeed and unlimited throttled data after you go over, only I pay 50 dollars straight.

          High speeds mean nothing; you only need 1 megabit to browse then web, and 5-7 to stream HD video. What matters is latency, connection quality, and reliable coverage. T-Mobile has none of these outside of any city or direct suburbs.

        • Jay J. Blanco

          Your more then welcome to stay with cricket until t-mobile covers those rural areas with low band frequency lol

          Your not hurting tmobile. They added hoe many customers again…. so your just complaining for no reason if your with cricket

        • RiskyBidThis

          I’ve been seeing a lot more people praising Cricket lately despite their ridiculous 4/8Mbps throttled speeds and virtually no mention of them prior to the last month of so.

          I know that AT&T has been expanding their presence to position them as a competitor to MetroPCS lately, but I can’t help but wonder if some of these guys talking them up are shills.

          That goes double for those like our friend above who try to tell us why their crappy speeds don’t matter when nobody else has even mentioned Cricket.

        • Mr Paul

          I agree the speeds are a little low (should honestly be 8 for HSPA+ and 20 for LTE), but firstly, that is plenty of bandwidth plenty to do anything you want, unless you like to waste data downloading large files or you’re pointlessly watching HD videos on a 5-6″ screen when HQ is more than good enough.

          For the price and being prepaid, it’s AT&T’s way of saying “If you want to save a buck, you get slower speeds; if you want the speeds, pay a little more and come to us directly with GoPhone.”

          Now, obviously if AT&T doesn’t have great coverage in my or the area I live in at the time, I’d say screw them and that logic, but when they both have coverage and or Verizon is the only other option which costs far more and is usually not better, which is the case for me; I think it’s a great deal.

          Considering I save 12 bucks a month over what T-Mo costs who overs no LTE where I live, and HSPA+ with speeds that never exceed Sprint on a bad day, 15 over GoPhone, 27 over AT&T prepaid, 22 over Sprint, and 40-50 bucks over what Verizon would cost, and still get better speeds than most people with VZW, T-Mo and Sprint in my area, it sure as hell works for me.

          I do want better speeds, but they just aren’t here, so when I move in the future, I’ll go with either AT&T GoPhone, AT&T Postpaid, or Sprint, depending on what’s around I feel is best and fits my needs.

        • Mr Paul

          It won’t happen for people like me until Sprint is probably a viable option. My smartphone doesn’t have band 12 nor does virtually all smartphones

          (According to Phonearena’s database, 9 phones have band 12, and 14 phones have Sprint’s bands 25, 26, and 41 meaning both carrier’s proprietary needs are barely met, but Sprint manages to have more…)

          So by the time I’m ready for a new phone, I might as well check if Sprint is in my area. If not, doesn’t matter to me.

          So no, I’ll stick with AT&T until Sprint becomes an option or not, lol.

        • Jay J. Blanco

          Sprint Spark doesn’t support vo-let only 800mhz. And t-mobile is doing a good job with launching band 12 devices. They haven’t even launched it yet and have almost 10 devices. be patient things take time.

          I laugh at sprint spark program it’s a joke. They’ll only be able to launch it in urban areas. rural areas depend on 800mhz. Spark isn’t more reliable then as speacturm.

        • UMA_Fan

          Well there was an article recently about carrier aggregation tmobile might deploy next year. so they can aggregate 700mhz, 1900mhz, and AWS LTE all together

      • klafka

        They are doing it also to prevent their competitors from having it (particularly t-mobile)

    • Mr Paul

      Not desperate. T-Mobile’s idiot CTO has you fooled. T-Mobile doesn’t have a huge advantage with their high frequencies, they have a huge disadvantage. All’s AT&T and Verizon need to do is bring out the PCS and AWS and they have all you have, and those low frequencies for inside buildings and on the edge of town where anyone with Sprint or T-Mobile simply drops their signal.

      • RiskyBidThis

        T-Mobile is at a disadvantage by not having much low-band spectrum for some of the reasons you described, but having a lot of mid-band spectrum is by no means a disadvantage.

        AT&T and Verizon have been snatching up as much mid-band spectrum as they can lately to boost their networks’ capacity which is something low-band isn’t good at since it travels further (meaning more people on each cell site).

        • Mr Paul

          The situation is, in another light:

          AT&T & Verizon are SET almost everywhere, all’s they need higher frequencies for is to take the load off the lower frequencies and give them even more bandwidth for everyone all together. All AT&T recent LTE phones have the PCS and AWS bands, ready to roll. I believe [more] newer Verizon phones do as well.

          T-Mobile is NOT set, and they have a million holes in their coverage. They need to rush to get as much low-frequency spectrum AND convert it, AND get phone manufacturers to start making models with band 12, and then convert their million 2G towers and the rest of their HSPA+ towers to LTE, and then they need to build a lot more towers, and then maybe they’ll be set. I give them 2 years to start barking they’re set without being complete liars. Sprint can pump up Spark in most markets by that time, meaning I do as T-Mobile’s fast growth will give it third place, they will be behind Sprint again by the end of next year.

  • Mike Palomba

    That’s a really high price. If T-Mobile hasn’t dropped out yet they really should. The 600mhz auction is far more important then this auction. They already have the nations fastest network, now they need in building coverage.

    • EndlessIke

      I’m sure 600 will be even more expensive? Its not like everyone else doesn’t know its more important/valuable as well.

    • KingCobra

      They still need some of this AWS in some markets. As more subscribers continue to join the network at such a rapid pace those current fast speeds with slow down without more capacity and that’s what AWS is good for.

      • Mr Paul

        They still need low frequencies in almost ALL markets. When people continue to join T-Mo’s 2G with a random splatter of 4G (HSPA+) network with the occasional hint of LTE (outside of cities), at such a rapid pace, more new customers will experience loss of signals inside buildings, unusable data in the holes in the coverage, and the higher frequencies being unable to push adequate data speeds to many areas that aren’t as flat as Florida, and that’s what low frequencies are good for. Wi-Fi calling is an “added bonus” but the way Legere advertises it like it’s a feature every cell user needs, or it’s helping this big dead spot problem all cell networks have (BS!!!), makes me laugh.

        T-Mobiles needs one thing more than low frequencies: MORE bloody towers. They’re so worried about upgrading, great, but guess what; they STILL need to convert that huge 2G network of theirs and all the HSPA+ the were stupid to install instead of LTE, and then convert all the acquired spectrum, and THEN build new towers, and THEN build some more towers, and then keep track of their network because the outages for many like myself with them were ridiculous. They made Sprint look good for me.

        • KingCobra

          True they do also need the 600mhz even more than this but that’s almost 2 years away. Meaning it’s at least 3 years away from being used in any phones. Another thing about the 600 Mhz is that T-Mobile has FCC placing reserves on spectrum for smaller carriers to prevent AT&T/VZW from buying it all up. This AWS spectrum is the best available strategy right now.

    • Justin Smith

      The 600mhz auction is a long ways away and they need coverage and capacity now not in two years.

    • kalel33

      If you think that’s a high price then wait for the 600Mhz auction to come around. It’ll dwarf the bids on this one.

  • analyzethis

    Following this auction Dish announces a bid for TMUS. D Telkom accepts and the FCC wait begins.

    • randomnerd_number38

      Agreed. As a T-Mobile tech support rep, I’m already exploring other employment options. I deeply suspect that the first thing to face budget cutbacks in the event of a Dish takeover is customer service. Having worked for T-Mobile for the past 8 years and lived through the AT&T takeover attempt, I have firsthand experience in what happens to employees when big companies try to tighten their belts to get the best outcome in one of their multi-billion dollar deals. I kept my job, so I am one of the lucky ones. But no way am I living through that uncertainty again.

      It’s been fun, and I believe in John Legere’s vision for T-Mobile- well, at least the vision he publicly presents for T-Mobile’s future. Unfortunately, I don’t think DT believes in that vision. I hope I’m wrong, and that DT really does keep their majority share in T-Mobile, hopefully even giving John the resources and support he needs to turn T-Mobile into the industry superforce it so obviously can be. Farewell :)

      • UMA_Fan

        Sorry but that was a stupid comment. If DT wanted out they would have accepted Illiads two bids amongst who knows how many others there have been for tmobile US.

        Legrere could not have been more clear publicly that if the Sprint deal went through it would have had tmobile controlling sprint, not the other way around.

        So purely based on RECENT history DT and tmobile US won’t entertain any deals that won’t bolster up tmobile. If they wanted to cash out high that ship has long sailed so it’s clear that’s not their game.

        Sit back and think for a second here tmobile US is the number one share taker in the country for the past year now. While spending the LEAST in advertising. That’s a big deal and the company is performing beyond anyone’s expectations.

        • Guest

          T-Mobile is having it’s pants down and sprint is standing with it’s skirt up. At&t and VZW reps are just waiting to hear some type of news. Budget cuts or Pink slips ?

        • Nikato Muirhead

          That depends on whether or not T-mobile also has its back turned and hands touching the floor.

        • randomnerd_number38

          I don’t think it’s so stupid. I suspect that Dish has been holding off on a formal bid for T-Mobile until after this auction, hoping their high band spectrum will suddenly be worth more. Looks like they’re getting their wish. T-Mobile is doing great, I don’t deny that, but everything I’ve read has DT execs saying they’re not -in a hurry- to sell T-Mobile. That reads to me like they’re waiting for the right offer, which I believe Dish can give now. DT will keep a 10-15% share of T-Mobile, so they’ll still want what’s right for the company, but Dish is gonna be the new boss with a majority share IMO. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. Maybe a Dish deal would be great for the company as a whole. I don’t think it will for anyone in American T-Mobile call centers, though.

      • T-Mobile Cares

        Sir, we certainly hope we are not losing you anytime soon. You are a great rep and we would hate to lose you. I am sure there is uncertainty about the direction things could possibly go, but as has been the case in recent years, things are only getting better and we don’t see that changing anytime soon. Let me know if you like and I will reach out to you when I get to the office on Tuesday and we can talk.

        • randomnerd_number38

          Thank you for the offer, but its not T-Mobile I’m worried about, its me and my position. I have no doubt that Dish becoming a majority shareholder could be great for the company and its bottom line. I just am uncertain if keeping US customer care workers will figure into that bottom line. I want to believe, but I can’t.

        • T-Mobile Cares

          I understand your concerns, but let me point out, that in your center more jobs are being generated than ever before. Three new teams are being added and your job is secure. Further, in your town (CS), corporate stores do exist and are thriving. Again, if you would like to discuss this I would be happy to visit your team on Tuesday and have this conversion in person.

        • randomnerd_number38

          That’s very nice of you, thanks. And you’re right that the Springs call center is thriving, we have a great team there. I may be a bit jumpy after my experience in previous years regarding the possibility of merger/acquisition deals.

          I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to speaking with you in person about it, if you really feel it’s an important conversation to have with me. Again, I have no qualms about T-Mobile and the direction it is heading or even that my job is secure as long as John’s in charge. I’m more concerned that -if- Dish makes a move for T-Mobile, and DT does sell the majority share to them, that John will be be in charge of the brand and image that he has grown so well but have less control over operations.

          But hey, I’m talking about things way above my pay grade here, so I could be way off. I’m just keeping options open is all.

        • T-Mobile Cares

          I will reach out to you at some point on Tuesday. Thank you for the opportunity you are entrusting to me. You will know once you see me I have your best interest at heart, as I always have.

        • randomnerd_number38

          So now my curiosity really is piqued, I must confess. I believe you may have me at a disadvantage. I guess I’ll learn more Tuesday ;)

        • kalel33

          I remember the AT&T acquisition attempt and it was horrible. Our site, in Wichita, had over 600 reps. Within 6 months, we were down to 170 reps. They were firing people left and right to downsize the workforce for AT&T. I had only been there 2 years but there were many that were there for 7-10 years(was a Voicestream call center before that). It was sad for many many people. I see your guy’s center everyday, since I drive by on my way to work.

        • wsj

          Reach out and be fired.

        • randomnerd_number38

          Haha, we’ll see

        • T-Mobile Cares

          You have no fear of being terminated. You are certainly entitled to your feelings. It is just important you know we care.

  • KijBeta

    I assume they spent nearly 2 Billion for specific licenses in Metro areas they don’t have at least 15+15MHz for LTE. While low band spectrum is important to T-Mobile, they still need more capacity in several cities. It’s either that or watch their network crumble under the weight of all the new subscribers.

  • sushimane

    T-Mobile are only bidding on certain location their spending big bucks on the 600 MHz spectrum

    • calvin200

      That will be a knock down fight between TMobile and Sprint mostly. Money up!

  • Jay Holm

    I just want more 20mhz markets instead of just 15mhz.

    • Justin Smith

      They have to shut down the Metro PCS network first which should happen in 2015

      • Jay Holm

        Not til the end of 2015 though, huh? That’s a long ways away!

  • Nick

    Except for all the people that don’t want/need to upgrade to a new device that supports 700mhz. I’m all for more aws spectrum especially in markets that still have 5mhz. *cough cough Cincinnati*

    • Jay Holm

      Waterbury, Ct also only has 5mhz, very strange, everywhere else has 15mhz.

    • RiskyBidThis

      “Except for all the people that don’t want/need to upgrade to a new device that supports 700mhz.”

      This auction won’t help them either unless their phone supports band 10 LTE. Even then it could be years until that helps them.

    • Bori

      We could use more juice that’s for sure. 5mhz it cutting it.

  • james

    Good old goverment we own the air and its expensive.

    • Durandal_1707

      I’d like to see you try to use a cell phone in a world where the airwaves were completely unregulated and any Tom, Dick or Harry could broadcast on the same frequency, jamming your signal.

    • eanfoso

      At least it’s not like in my country where they also expropriated the petroleum!

  • TechnoRealz

    More bandwidth is never a bad things esp. in the 1700/2100 range.
    Wish TMO could have gotten in the action…

    • Jay Holm

      We don’t know yet, won’t know how much spectrum T-Mobile snagged up until the auction is completely over, hopefully there will be some news before Christmas, sheez!

    • think ahead

      It is a bad thing when it costs money to a company who does not need it, doesn’t have a never ending cash supply like Verizon and at&t, and is in desperate need of low band spectrum which will go up for auction in the not so distant future.

  • Jay Holm

    Does anyone know how much total spectrum is up for auction?

    • RiskyBidThis

      25Mhz of paired spectrum (so 50Mhz) and 15Mhz unpaired. There are no limits on AT&T and Verizon in this auction (FCC auction 97).

      • Jay Holm

        I don’t think I understand the difference between paired & unpaired spectrum. Well, there should have been limits on the big 2, dang it!

        • Jay J. Blanco

          Paired meaning all the carrier has to do is launch the spectrum. Basically paired is wideband. Unpaired is 1700/2100 in different blocks. ADE. Etc.. and those are not as easy to use. T-mobile sits on a lot of unpaired that’s not being used…smh

        • Jay Holm

          Does not easy to use mean we would have to get new smartphones to utilize the new spectrum? Unpaired=new smartphone?

        • Jay J. Blanco

          Paired mean contiguous.
          unpaired mean. 48 states vs alaska, hauweii lol mispelled but o well

        • Jay Holm

          So just because spectrum is unpaired, doesn’t necessarily mean we would have to get a new smartphones to utilize the spectrum?

        • Jay J. Blanco

          Yes it does but the paired no

        • fixed

          He’s confusing paired spectrum with contiguous spectrum. Paired spectrum are blocks of spectrum of different frequencies that are “paired” with each other to create separate uplink and downlink channels (example AWS on 1700/2100mhz). Neither paired or unpaired spectrum is more difficult to launch service on, and won’t require new hardware as long as the phone supports the utilized frequencies.

          Contiguous spectrum is spectrum blocks that are adjacent to each other (ex. 1700-1710mhz, 1710-1715mhz, 1715-20mhz). And has nothing to do with whether or not the involved spectrum is paired. Contiguous spectrum is easier for a carrier to launch wide band service on, and as long as a phone supports the frequency range being utilized new hardware isn’t necessary. Non-contiguous spectrum requires more sophisticated software and hardware on both ends to enable wideband service. (Example, sprint spark requiring carrier aggregation technology at the cell site and simultaneous tri-band connectivity capability on the device end)

        • Jay J. Blanco

          Yeah i did my bad :-/

          That’s what I was getting too. I got confused for a sec. And I didn’t feel like typing all that too

        • Kidney_Thief

          There will be a new band class to combine AWS-1 and AWS-3, which means you’ll have to get a new phone to be able to use it.

        • RiskyBidThis

          That’s not what unpaired means, at least not in this context. AWS spectrum that is paired has spectrum for both upload (~1700MHz) and download (~2100MHz) operations.

          Unpaired spectrum such as the AWS-3 A and B block in the current auction ONLY can be used for upload (as is the case here) or download (as in 700MHz D and E) since it only includes one range of spectrum and doesn’t include a matching (or paired) range to perform the other type of operation.

          What you’re thinking of is contiguous vs. non-contiguous spectrum which is just another way of saying that someone owns (or doesn’t own) spectrum blocks that are directly adjacent (i.e. contiguous) with each other.

        • Jay J. Blanco

          That what I meant to say I got confused putting into words lol thanks

  • Jay J. Blanco

    Columbia, SC needs more as and pics bad. My market has 850K ppl and we’re on 5x5mhz let and pcs. T-Mobile needs to decomission hspa aws asap. Legacy devices just gone have to suffer.


      HSPA is not 5×5. It 3.8MHZ. And killing HSPA would be suicide.

      • Jay J. Blanco

        My city has 5x5mhz aws hspa
        and 5x5mhz pcs hspa.
        then 5x5mhz lte

      • Mr Paul

        Yes, he’s not aware of the way GSM networks work. HSPA+ will not be going anywhere because it is REQUIRED for calling and texting until VoLTE is fully is in place, and is currently a reliable LTE fallback, and until there is a standard that succeeds LTE, and such a standard has begun to replace LTE, it ain’t happening.

        It’s not like CDMA networks who are rushing to get rid of their dogshit EV-DO and CDMA and fill in all the gaps with LTE.

  • We need to upgrade the 1900 here in my area. There isn’t any 1700/2100 spectrum outside of Charlotte, Atlanta and the Triad in the Tri-State of Georgia and the Carolinas. Folly Beach has 2100, but not the paired spectrum at play in this auction. In fact, all of the T-Mobile spectrum along Interstate 95 between Washington, DC and Jacksonville, Fla. is solely 2100. In other words, no 1700 or 1700/2100.

    • Kidney_Thief

      I’m sure that’ll come as a surprise to T-Mobile, because AWS-1 was only sold as paired spectrum between 1700 and 2100, so there’s no way they can lack one or the other.

    • mingkee

      T-Mobile should have some extra PCS from MetroPCS.


      You are incorrect sir. There is no unpaired AWS spectrum in use right now.

  • superg05

    it is suspected that dish is artificially raising the bids so as to strategically force t-mobile into a corner

  • Irfan

    Enjoy FCC u going to get Free Money , big fish will be happy , monopoly won..