Three of the four top US operators applied to take part in upcoming auctions of 28GHz and 24GHz spectrum, lining up alongside dozens of other participants to get a slice of bands widely eyed for 5G.

AT&T, T-Mobile US and Verizon signed up to take part in both proceedings, as did the nation’s fifth-largest operator US Cellular and broadband provider Windstream. Sprint was not listed by name among the applicants for either auction, but could bid through a designated entity with a different name.

Cable operator Frontier Communications applied to bid on 28GHz spectrum, while fixed wireless broadband company Starry and another cable player, Cox Communications, put their hats in the ring for 24GHz spectrum.

A number of smaller operators also expressed interest: Inland Cellular, Pine Belt Cellular and Nsight filed to bid on both 28GHz and 24GHz airwaves.

5G implications
Though not necessarily earmarked by the government solely for 5G use, the bands have been the focus of extensive next generation testing for both mobile and fixed wireless access (FWA) applications. Verizon recently deployed its FWA 5G home broadband product, which uses the operator’s existing 28GHz assets, while AT&T, T-Mobile and US Cellular have all also tested at 28GHz.

A total of 50 applications were submitted for the 28GHz proceeding, while 60 were turned in for the 24GHz auction. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) marked nearly half of applications for each auction as incomplete, but applicants have until 23 October to finish their paperwork and submit upfront payments for the 28GHz auction.

Bidding begins
The 28GHz proceeding is set to begin on 14 November and will include 3,072 licences. The Commission will set a date for the 24GHz auction, which will offer 2,909 licences, following the conclusion of the 28GHz process.

A date is yet to be set for a proposed third auction of spectrum in the 37GHz, 39GHz and 47GHz bands.

The FCC’s most recent auction, which offered spectrum in the 600MHz band, brought in $19.6 billion. However, the sum fell far short of the $86.4 billion forecast by the Commission.