US 3.5GHz auction draws wide interest - Mobile World Live

US 3.5GHz auction draws wide interest

24 JUL 2020

Executives at US Spectrum Access System (SAS) provider Federated Wireless told Mobile World Live major mobile players, cable companies, wireless ISPs, utility companies and large enterprises had all entered the race to acquire 3.5GHz spectrum in an auction which commenced yesterday (23 July).

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officials said more than 270 bidders were vying for 22,631 licences being offered in 10MHz blocks for the spectrum, which is regarded as key for 5G.

Federated Wireless CTO Kurt Schaubach and VP of legal advocacy Jennifer McCarthy said the high level of interest could result in the auction running into the fourth quarter, with winners named by the year-end.

McCarthy explained the large number of participants was in part due to the FCC’s decision to award licences for smaller, county-sized geographies rather than the larger partial economic areas (PEAs) it normally uses. She noted this offers utility companies a prime opportunity to buy operator-grade licences, which offer more security than unlicensed spectrum and “are more suited towards their own service and geographic requirements”.

She added the FCC’s rules also offer licence holders a unique opportunity to lease unused spectrum through a secondary marketplace, predicting this would revolutionise “how spectrum gets licensed and leased going forward”.

Federated Wireless is one of a handful of FCC-approved SAS providers, with the system required to prevent interference in the 3.5GHz band, which is designated as shared spectrum.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai hailed the start of bidding as a “key milestone” in advancing 5G as a national priority.

Unlicensed access to the band was opened in January.

A second sale of mid-band spectrum in the C-Band (3.7GHz to 4.2GHz) is set for December.

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Diana Goovaerts

Diana is Mobile World Live's US Editor, reporting on infrastructure and spectrum rollouts, regulatory issues, and other carrier news from the US market. Diana came to GSMA from her former role as Editor of Wireless Week and CED Magazine, digital-only...

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