FCC 5G mmWave auction results show T-Mobile spent $873 million on spectrum licenses


The FCC today published the results of its 5G mmWave spectrum auction, and the results are a bit different than what some had predicted.

Auction 103 saw the FCC offer a total of 3,400 megahertz of spectrum, which is the most spectrum ever offered in an auction. The airwaves up for auction were in the Upper 37GHz, 39GHz, and 47GHz bands.

T-Mobile spent a total of $872.8 million in the auction and won 2,384 spectrum licenses that cover 399 areas. Verizon, bidding as Straight Path Spectrum, was the big spender of the major US carriers, dropping $1.6 billion on 4,490 licenses in 411 areas.

AT&T wasn’t far behind Verizon. Bidding as FiberTower Spectrum Holdings, AT&T spent nearly $1.2 billion on 3,267 licenses in 411 areas. Sprint, bidding as ATI Sub, spent almost $114 million on 127 licenses in 38 areas.

Other notable bidders include Dish Network, operating as Window Wireless, who spent $202.5 million on 2,651 licenses in 416 areas. U.S. Cellular also participated in Auction 103, spending $146.3 million on 237 licenses in 70 areas.

In total, Auction 103 generated $7,558,703,201 in net bids. The FCC says that 28 bidders won 14,142 of the available 14,144 licenses, or more than 99.9% of the licenses available in the auction.

“A critical part of our 5G FAST plan is pushing more spectrum into the commercial marketplace,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “Last year, the FCC auctioned the 28 GHz and 24 GHz bands. All told, those two auctions and this one have made available almost five gigahertz of high-band spectrum for commercial use.”

“To put that in perspective, that is more spectrum than is currently used for terrestrial mobile broadband by all wireless service providers in the United States combined,” Pai added.

The FCC is planning two more spectrum auctions for this year. They include a 3.5GHz auction that’s slated to begin on June 25th and a C-band auction that’ll begin on December 8th.

These results are a bit different than what some analysts predicted, with those reports suggesting that T-Mobile could be the biggest spender by dropping nearly $2 billion while Verizon was expected to be one of the smallest participants in the auction.

While T-Mobile’s participation in Auction 103 definitely wasn’t small, both AT&T and Verizon spent quite a bit more. Verizon has committed to nearly doubling the number of cities where its mmWave-based 5G is currently available in 2020, with the current count sitting at 34 and the goal of being in 60 cities by the end of the year. That commitment and the participation in this auction show that Verizon is still betting big on mmWave spectrum.

T-Mobile hasn’t said as much about its mmWave plans lately, and it currently only offers mmWave-based 5G in six cities. T-Mo’s participation in Auction 103 shows that it’s definitely still interested in mmWave, though.

You can find more info on Auction 103 and its results right here.

Source: FCC (1), (2)

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  • randian

    I wonder where the two unpurchased licenses were.

    • I’m wondering too. I’m guessing it was for some unpopulated part of Alaska or something.

  • Willie D

    Sadly, TMo is so distracted by Sprint and a merger if $25+B that could have been better spent and for far less to gain spectrum in an auction. They’re so adamant on forcing “low band 5G” down everyone’s throats, all at sub LTE speeds that I honestly believe at this point Verizon will continue to be far ahead of TMo, and even more so once VZ launches their 5G on 850 and PCS bands. Call it quits for TMo or a consistent never changing #3 place.

    • Joe

      You do realize the sprint deal comes with a lot of great mid band which will be used for 5G and a ton of customers…Customers are worth quite a bit of money.

      • marque2

        In addition to that – I believe it is a stock swap so no money was spent other than for lobbying, court cases and state demanded kickbacks.

      • Willie D

        Mid band means zero in 3 years when you have another company who’s going ALL IN on mmW spectrum. Yes it doesn’t travel far but if you’re Verizon and already cover the whole country adding small sites as well as deploying on existing sites only means way faster connectivity. I dont necessarily enjoy thinking that but let’s be real both VZW and ATT have ALWAYS been ahead of the curve with 4G and 5G tech done right.

        • Joe

          Do you know what this mm Wave even is? It’s 37-47 GHz…When it rains your signal will drop and I am not even joking. This stuff is going to be only used in buildings and big metro locations like down towns of big citys, and suspect they have ideas for providing in home internet by setting up multiple towers around neighborhoods and putting receivers on homes with mid band as a backup. T mobile will have the most divers portfolio of spectrum for 5G when the Sprint deal closes. They will have a lot of mid band, a decent amount of low band, and a good amount of mmWave

        • Willie D

          If Verizon is going all in on mmW spectrum I can guarantee they have a plan to have mmW coverage that will be as robust as their current network. That means they’re willing to spend money to deploy as many sites as possible so you’ll have coverage in and out. Yes I know how mmW works but you underestimate Verizon and their ability to make things happen.

        • ATLer

          Verizon may have an “ability to make things happen” (just like literally any other entity in the world), but they lack the ability to change or disregard the laws of Physics to which even they’ve acknowledged. All carriers are scrambling for mid-band as it’s the sweet spot between speed and coverage for 5G. Of course that does mean blanket as much as you can in mmWave but it just isn’t physically possible to have an expansive 5G network that works better than being mere hotspots composed entirely of mmWave.

        • It costs $1.5 trillion to cover the whole US in mmWave. Verizon and others are not going “all in” on it, just using it it some major cities to claim 5G coverage. It’s fast but no range, only lasts a block or two.

  • JG

    Verizon, bidding as Straight Path Spectrum, […]

    AT&T wasn’t far behind Verizon. Bidding as FiberTower Spectrum Holdings […]

    Other notable bidders include Dish Network, operating as Window Wireless,

    Why did Verizon, AT&T and Dish bid under aliases?