Big three wireless networks nab C-Band spectrum licenses

The three biggest operators of wireless phone services in the United States spent the most money and walked away with the biggest amount of C-Band licenses at the end of a recent Federal Communications Commission spectrum auction, the federal agency announced on Wednesday.

The licenses will help verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile further build out their 5G wireless networks, which promise faster connection speeds with lower latency over a greater distance.

Verizon spent the most, according to the FCC, plunking down $45.5 billion for 3,500 licenses to the C-Band spectrum. Verizon is currently working to build out its lower-frequency 5G network after investing in and promoting its millimeter wave-based service, which offers Gigabit speeds but only covers a short distance.

AT&T came in second, agreeing to pay $23.4 billion for more than 1,600 licenses. T-Mobile, which has one of the most-robust low frequency 5G networks, spent just $9.3 billion for over 140 licenses.

U.S. Cellular, the fourth-largest wireless company that operates in 23 states, came in fourth, bidding nearly $1.3 billion for over 250 licenses.

Dish Network, which is building its own 5G wireless network after acquiring Boost Mobile from Sprint last year, paid $2.5 million for one license. The company entered the spectrum auction through its holding company Little Bear Wireless.

“This auction reflects a shift in our nation’s approach to 5G toward mid-band spectrum that can support fast, reliable, and ubiquitous service that is competitive with our global peers,” Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC’s acting chairperson, said in a statement. “Now we have to work fast to put this spectrum to use in service of the American people.”

With only a finite amount of wireless spectrum available, telecoms have eagerly lapped up the licenses they can get, and the latest auction was expected to bring a significant amount of money to the satellite and communication companies who were willing to part with the C-Band licenses.