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5G spectrum auction in the U.S. reaches $80.9bn record level

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: FCC

Paris, 21 January 2021. – Beating even the boldest expectations: the 5G C-band spectrum auction in the U.S. ended its first phase with a record-breaking $80.9 billion of proceeds, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced last week.

The Commission thus successfully concluded what it called “the largest auction of mid-band 5G spectrum, and the highest-grossing spectrum auction overall, ever held in the United States.”

In the auction, the FCC offered licenses for 280 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band—a portion of the so-called C-band that large satellite operators use since decades for video and television services across the U.S.

“This historic FCC auction is already a record-breaking success,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “Bidders have won all of the 5,684 spectrum blocks that were up for bid.  And gross proceeds have exceeded $80.9 billion, shattering the prior FCC auction record of $44.9 billion.”

After four years as a Chairman and eight years as a Commissioner, Pai leaves the FCC and resigns from his post this month.

“These results represent a strong endorsement by the private sector of the service rules and transition plan put in place by the FCC to quickly make the C-band a critical part of 5G rollout in the United States,” the Chairman said. “And they vindicate the hard choices the FCC made during the C-band proceeding—and that we made them. The FCC confronted a host of technical, legal, practical, and political challenges in structuring this auction.  It would have been easy to delay. But we rightly pushed ahead and overcame every one of those obstacles. As a result, we significantly advanced United States leadership in 5G and have enabled America’s wireless consumers to more quickly benefit from 5G services.”

In the next phase of the auction, the winning bidders can now bid for frequency-specific licenses. The FCC will release a public notice soon announcing further details regarding the assignment phase, including the date and time when bidding in the assignment phase will commence, the Commission said.

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