82 bidders qualify for Auction 108, including T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T

The FCC today released the final list of qualified bidders for its Auction 108. This is the auction of 2.5 GHz spectrum that begins on July 29.

Qualifed bidders include T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon (under the name Cellco Partnership) and Dish Network (under the name Carbonate Wireless).

Verizon’s application had originally been deemed incomplete, but it cured any problems and was added to the qualified list.

Smaller carriers on the qualified bidders list include Carolina West Wireless, Cellular South, DoCoMo Pacific, East Kentucky Network, Granite Wireless, Illinois Electric Cooperative, Redzone Wireless and UScellular.

T-Mobile likely to dominate auction

T-Mobile already owns or leases much of the 2.5 GHz spectrum across the United States, and Auction 108 is viewed as a chance for it to solve its “swiss-cheese” problem of gaps in coverage.

The FCC appears to support T-Mobile’s goal of creating a seamless mid-band spectrum layer across the country. It did not require T-Mobile to reveal the terms of its existing 2.5 GHz leases, even though Verizon and AT&T claimed it would make it hard for them to make informed decisions about their own bids.

Also, when establishing rules for the auction, the FCC announced it would use an ascending clock auction format, which T-Mobile favored. Some potential bidders had wanted a single, sealed-bid auction because T-Mobile has so much more information about the spectrum. But the ascending clock auction will allow T-Mobile to more precisely target its bids.

The FCC has expressed a strong interest in T-Mobile offering service in rural areas. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has previously stated, “The 2.5 GHz band spectrum provides an opportunity to fill in some of the critical 5G gaps in rural America.”

Auction 108 will offer about 8,000 new county-based licenses, many of them in remote and rural locales.

Just because 82 bidders are qualified in the auction doesn’t mean that they’re required to bid. It’s possible the other large carriers just want to make the auction more competitive and costly for T-Mobile. Many of the smaller bidders may just want small amounts of spectrum in select locations.

Sasha Javid, COO with BitPath and a former chief data officer with the FCC, said the FCC has multiple mandates. Its goal for this auction may not be so much to raise a large amount of money, but rather to ensure the nation’s spectrum assets provide the most benefit for the public.