AT&T, Verizon file to bid in 2.5 GHz auction

The FCC on Thursday released the list of applicants that have filed to bid in the agency’s 2.5 GHz auction, aka Auction 108, which starts July 29.

AT&T and Verizon were among those that submitted applications to participate in the auction, which is largely seen as a chance for T-Mobile to fill in its vast 2.5 GHz footprint.

Indeed, AT&T and Verizon had complained that the lack of visibility into T-Mobile’s current 2.5 GHz leases posed a problem for them and their ability to make informed decisions about bidding. Without seeing the terms of T-Mobile’s leases with educational institutions, they argued their participation would be limited.

In total, the FCC said 39 applications were approved for bidding, while 54 applications were deemed incomplete. Those applications whose filings were found to be incomplete or otherwise deficient will receive a letter from the FCC outlining the problem and they’ll get a chance to redeem themselves via corrected applications.

Those that completed their applications to the FCC’s liking include AT&T, as well as Dish Network, which filed under the name “Carbonate Wireless.” Others on the approved list are Carolina West Wireless, Cellular South, DoCoMo Pacific, East Kentucky Network, Granite Wireless, Illinois Electric Cooperative, Pine Belt Cellular and UScellular.

Cellco Partnership, which is the name Verizon uses, is on the list of incomplete applications.

But don’t expect that to curtail Verizon’s plans. “I fully expect Verizon is going to fix their application and get it in,” said auction tracker Sasha Javid, COO of BitPath and former legal advisor for the FCC Incentive Auction Task Force.

He added that the bigger question is whether AT&T and Verizon will seriously bid in this auction, “and the answer to that is we don’t know. They could place an application and then never place a bid.”

That’s a tactic often used to muddy the waters, so to speak, he said. By filing applications, their rivals won’t know if they’re competing against them or not when the bidding gets underway.

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One of his big take-aways is there appears to be less interest in Auction 108 than there was in the 2020 Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) auction, which also featured county-sized licenses. The CBRS auction “seemed to be more attractive for non-traditional bidders,” he said.

He also didn’t see any of the big cable companies like Comcast or Charter Communications on the list of potential bidders for this one.

“I think T-Mobile will definitely be the big player,” and Dish will be in there as well along with some wireless internet service providers (WISPs), he said. “There will be competition. Certainly even between Dish and T-Mobile there will be competition. The question is are they going to get the big numbers, the big totals, if you only have one or two bidders, and on that, I’m more skeptical.”

When the auction format was announced by the FCC in March, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) said it was disappointed the commission didn’t adopt the single-round, sealed-bid format for which it advocated. But WISPA said the auction still offers county-size geographic license areas that can help small wireless companies add spectrum in targeted areas they currently serve.