FCC’s auction of 24 GHz spectrum attracts >$1.5B in bids after 26 rounds; IMT 2020 frequencies?

Bids in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) 24 GHz millimeter-wave spectrum auction 102 have passed $1.5 billion after 26 rounds. The figure is more than double the  the $704 million collected during the recent sale of 28 GHz spectrum.

Bidding has been from AT&T, T-Mobile US, Verizon and Sprint (bidding as ATI Sub LLC); U.S. Cellular; Dish Network, bidding as Crestone Wireless; Starry Spectrum Holdings and Windstream Communications (which recently filed for bankruptcy protection in the wake of a court case).  There are a total of 38 qualified bidders.

Auction 102 is the FCC’s second auction of Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (UMFUS) licenses (see below for information on auction 1010). Auction 102 offers 2,909 licenses in the 24 GHz band. The lower segment of the 24 GHz band (24.25–24.45 GHz) will be licensed as two 100-megahertz blocks, and the upper segment (24.75–25.25 GHz) will be licensed as five 100-megahertz blocks.  Those frequencies are being considered for the IMT 2020 5G  radio aspects standard and will be determined at the ITU-R WRC-19 meeting this fall (details in Editor’s Note below).

Image result for image for FCC auction bidding

Three rounds of bidding are being held each day at this point in the auction. The clock auction format begins with a “clock phase” (the current auction phase) which lets participants bid on generic blocks in each Partial Economic Area in successive bidding rounds, followed by an “assignment phase” that allows the winners of the generic blocks to bid for frequency-specific license assignments. The clock phase continues, with prices automatically increasing each round, until bidders’ demand for licenses at a certain price matches the supply — and at that point, the bidders who have indicated they are willing to pay the final clock price for a license will be considered winners and the assignment phase can begin.

The most hotly contested licenses are those covering New York City and Los Angeles, California. New York City metropolitan licenses are dominating the bidding: four bids for NYC licenses in the upper portion of the band are currently above $30 million. One of those is at $41.1 million, the largest bid of the auction thus far.  The most expensive bid for a Los Angeles license, also in the upper portion of the band, is up to $31.6 million, with other bids on LA licenses as high as $28.7 million and $26.1 million.

Much of the auction process is secretive—there are anti-collusion rules and bidders can’t talk to one another, for example. The FCC isn’t releasing the names of the winners of the 28-GHz or 24-GHz auctions until both have been concluded.


The FCC is making a total of 1.55 gigahertz of spectrum available through auctions 101 (which concluded in late January after raising $702 million) and 102. The agency plans to hold three more mmWave auctions during 2019, covering spectrum at 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz.  Although the FCC has usually makes winning bidders public shortly after the close of an auction, the winning bidders from Auction 101 will not be publicly named until after the close of Auction 102.











One thought on “FCC’s auction of 24 GHz spectrum attracts >$1.5B in bids after 26 rounds; IMT 2020 frequencies?

  1. FCC readies “assignment phase” of 24 GHz auction:

    The Federal Communications Commission will begin the second, “assignment phase” of its 24 GHz wireless spectrum auction on May 3 with hopes of raising the proceeds beyond $1.988 billion from the initial “clock phase” of the process. In the next round, telcos will bid for specific licenses they want to buy.

    Having already locked in $1.988 billion in 24GHz spectrum bids, the agency announced that it will begin the auction’s “assignment phase” on May 3, upping the government’s proceeds as prior “clock phase” winners fight over specific 24GHz frequency blocks.

    After 91 rounds of initial bidding spread across just over a month, the FCC says it has allocated 99.8% of available 24GHz licenses — 2,904 of 2,909. Compared with its 28GHz predecessor, which wrapped in late January, the second auction generated nearly 3 times the revenue, despite receiving roughly half as many bids.


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