FCC grants 5G licenses from 3.45 GHz auction

The FCC on Wednesday granted 4,041 licenses to winners in the 3.45 GHz auction, which closed in January. 

In a statement, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the 3.45 GHz auction, also known as Auction 110, was structured with diversity and competition front of mind.

“The results speak for themselves,” she said. “The licenses we are granting today represent a wider variety of providers, including small businesses and rural carriers, who will help deliver on the promise of 5G to every corner of the country.”

The 3.45 GHz auction resulted in gross proceeds of more than $22.5 billion, making it the third highest grossing auction in the FCC’s history. Licensees can use the spectrum for fixed or mobile uses.

According to the FCC, 13 of the 23 companies with winning bids qualified as small businesses or as entities serving rural communities.

In addition, compared to the C-band auction of 3.7 GHz, the 3.45 GHz auction resulted in a substantial increase in the number of winning bidders per market: over one-third of the top 100 markets have at least four winning bidders, compared with 10% of the top 100 markets for the C-band auction.  

AT&T was the biggest winner, buying 1,624 licenses in Auction 110, with Dish, bidding under the name Weminuche LLC, taking 1,232 licenses.

Earlier this year, AT&T said it would use just one tower climb to light up its C-band spectrum as well as the spectrum obtained at 3.45 GHz. The company plans to cover 200 million PoPs using mid-band spectrum by the end of 2023.

Another big winner was UScellular, which acquired 380 licenses. T-Mobile, which already has a lot of 2.5 GHz spectrum, acquired 199 licenses. Verizon was a no-show.

In its public notice about granting the 3.45 GHz licenses, the FCC reminded licensees of the relocation costs of incumbent non-federal users that need to transition out of the 3.45 GHz band and of their obligation to coordinate with federal incumbents.

The FCC is already preparing for the next auction, which starts on July 29. That’s for “white-spaces” in the 2.5 GHz band where no one currently owns the spectrum. T-Mobile is expected to be the big winner in that auction.