US telcos splash $7.6bn on 5G mmWave spectrum

Published: 4 February 2020 - 8:22 a.m.

Bidding has concluded in the US’ third national auction for 5G mmWave spectrum, with US telcos pledging $7.56 billion to secure licences.

In total, 14,144 licences were up for auction, for spectrum in the 37GHz, 39GHz and 47GHz bands. The Federal Communications Commission put 3,400MHz of spectrum up for auction.

Whilst all of the US’ big four telcos have launched their initial 5G networks, they have done so using predominantly low band spectrum. As a result, download speeds have been somewhat underwhelming.

The release of mmWave spectrum should enable operators to deliver the 1Gbps and above speeds, promised by 5G.

Sasha Javid, chief operating officer at the Spectrum Consortium, said that the amount spent at auction was higher than anaysts had expected, signalling strong desire from America’s telcos to ramp up speeds across their networks.

“Despite my earlier predictions to the contrary (read here and here), Auction 103 ended up with a surprising $7,561,724,774 in total proceeds. Even more surprising, the MN blocks (consisting of 24 blocks in both 37 and 39 GHz bands) finished the auction garnering a $0.009613 price per MHz-POP ... 5.5% above the closing price of $0.009112 price per MHz-POP from Auction 102 (24 GHz auction) at the end of its clock rounds,” he said in an online post.

Unsurprisingly, operator spent the most on licences for areas with huge urban populations. Licences for spectrum in New York ($947m), Los Angeles ($740m) and Chicago ($356m) attracted the highest bids in the auction.

AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint were all among the list of registered bidder for this auction. Winning bids will be announced following the completion of the assignment phase of the auction process.

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