Verizon emerged the top spender in a record-breaking US sale of C-Band spectrum (3.7GHz to 4.2GHz), bidding nearly twice as much as rival AT&T and five-times more than T-Mobile US.

The operator (bidding as Cellco Partnership) committed to pay $45.5 billion for 3,511 licences, while AT&T bid $23.4 billion on 1,621 and T-Mobile $9.3 billion on 142. UScellular was the fourth-highest spender, $1.3 billion on 254.

Analysts at Raymond James previously predicted Verizon would spend approximately $30 billion, AT&T $20 billion and T-Mobile $11 billion.

All told, told the auction raised $81.2 billion from 21 participants. Payments for the 5,684 licences sold are due by 24 March.

Acting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Jessica Rosenworcel stated the sale reflected “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”.

Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO of industry group CTIA, separately stated the massive sums involved “underscore the commitment by stakeholders across the wireless industry to invest in innovation, drive our economic recovery and ensure that the US leads the 5G economy”.

In addition to licence costs, Raymond James analysts noted winning bidders will have to pay approximately $14 billion to help satellite operators clear the spectrum, comprising $9.7 billion in incentive payments and $3.3 billion covering relocation.

They added the charges will be levied based on licences won, though payments will be spread over time.