On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission announced the winners of an $ 81 billion auction for the license to use important radio waves that are ideal for 5G.
The big winners were Verizon and AT&T. They need these radio waves to build 5G networks, which are significantly faster than current wireless service.
Verizon, through its subsidiary Cellco Partnership, bid nearly $ 45.5 billion over the airwaves. AT&T, through AT&T Spectrum Frontiers, bid $ 23.4 billion. The third largest US operator, T-Mobile, offered the third most money, $ 9.3 billion.
The sums spent by the companies ended well above expectations for last summer’s auction, reflecting the importance for operators of obtaining licenses for the airwaves.
“These record results highlight the demand and critical need for more licensed midband spectrum and demonstrate the importance of developing a strong spectrum auction line,” said Meredith Baker, CTIA CEO, in a statement. CTIA is a trade group representing the wireless industry. Bidders are still in a lull, in which they are not allowed to comment publicly.
The 280 megahertz of spectrum available at this auction is the mid-band spectrum, sometimes called the “goldilocks band,” which means that it is suitable for 5G networks, as it combines the ability to transmit large amounts of data with a wavelength that can travel long distances.
The results are in line with previous industry expectations. Verizon and AT&T were expected to be the highest bidders, because they didn’t have a lot of mid-band spectrum. T-Mobile had already acquired some midband through its merger with Sprint.
The entire spectrum was not sold at once. The 280 MHz of spectrum was divided into smaller blocks of 20 MHz and then divided into 406 geographic regions. In total, there were 5,684 licenses at stake.
In total, the three largest US airlines obtained 90% of the licenses that were auctioned.
Here are the top five bidders, according to the FCC:
- Cellco Association: $ 45,454,843,197
- AT&T Spectrum Frontiers LLC: $ 23,406,860,839
- T-Mobile LLC License: $ 9,336,125,147
- Cellular Corporation of the United States : $ 1,282,641,542
- New Tier II, LP: $ 1,277,395,688
The top five bidders by number of licenses granted were:
- Cellco Association: 3,511
- AT&T Spectrum Frontiers LLC: 1,621
- United States Cellular Corp.: 254
- T-Mobile LLC License: 142
- Canopy Spectrum, LLC: 84
US Cellular is the fourth-largest operator in the US. NewLevel II represents private equity firm Grain Management, while Canopy Spectrum is a venture between former Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche and investor Edward Moise Jr., according to LightReading.