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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.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).