C-Band auction tops $69 billion as companies vie for 5G spectrum

A mobile phone running on the T-Mobile wireless network. (Photo: The Desk)

An ongoing auction being conducted by the Federal Communications Commission for licenses related to wireless service has raked in more than $69 billion, according to a report.

The Wall Street Journal reported the figure on Wednesday, noting the sum is the largest brought in from an auction in history.

The auction began earlier this month and is expected to resume on January 4, 2021 where it could bring in even more cash as wireless companies seek to beef up their 5G offerings and other companies show interest in launching 5G services of their own.

The exact participants and bid amounts are unknown — elements of the auction are kept secret until it’s over — but analysts believe Verizon and AT&T are among the top bidders for the licenses. Both companies need to increase the amount of spectrum available to them in order to better compete against T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G wireless service. T-Mobile earned a cache of licensed spectrum when it acquired rival phone company Sprint earlier this year.

Dish Network, which is currently building out its own 5G network, is also believed to be participating in the auction. Comcast and Charter/Spectrum are also believed to be participating, the Journal said.

The licenses are being relinquished by satellite companies which had been using the higher end of the 3GHz radio band for datacasting and television services.

The companies that are relinquishing the licenses are part of an advocacy group called the C-Band Alliance. Participants in the alliance include Eutelsat, SES, Intelsat, Telesat and Star One.

Analysts say the licenses could help wireless companies double their capacity to provide 5G service to consumers, businesses and others.

“The C-Band auction is the Louisiana Purchase opportunity for the wireless operators,” Morgan Kurk, an executive with the network infrastructure company CommScope, told the website Fierce Wireless earlier this month.

The spectrum “will be the most efficient, cost effective, and capacity intense in history and will usher in a new era of wireless, connecting everything,” Kurk said.