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FCC Will Make October’s 5G Mid-Band Spectrum Auction Easier for Smaller Bidders

By | March 17, 2021
Federal Communications Commission. Photo: FCC

Federal Communications Commission. Photo: FCC

The FCC voted on Wednesday to reallocate 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3.45 GHz band to facilitate 5G deployment, and to hold an auction for the spectrum. The auction is set to begin in early October, and the FCC is now seeking comment on auction procedures. 

The commission wants to make it easier for more bidders to win spectrum in the auction, and has adopted a pre-auction spectrum aggregation limit. In a statement on the order, FCC Acting Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel pointed to the fact that more than 90% of 5,684 licenses in the C-band auction went to the top two bidders, Verizon and AT&T. To combat this, this time the FCC will auction this spectrum in smaller blocks in order to encourage broader participation from smaller providers. 

Rosenworcel called the decision a “spectrum stimulus” for 5G. 

“We take action that will move us closer to 5G service that is fast, secure, resilient, and — most importantly — available everywhere in the country,” Rosenworcel said. “We accomplish that by adopting rules and auction procedures that will make available 100 megahertz of prime mid-band spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band available for 5G this year. This offers real opportunity because during the past few years the United States was slow, relative to other countries, to recognize the importance of mid-band spectrum for 5G. This meant we were late to bring these airwaves to market.  So mid-band spectrum has been the critical component that is missing and our action here helps fix that.” 

The mid-band spectrum is primarily military use, and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) operates high-powered defense radar systems on fixed, mobile, shipborne, and airborne platforms in this band. Rosenworcel said that the FCC worked closely with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the DoD on interference concerns. 

This action comes after the FCC was directed in the Beat CHINA for 5G Act of 2020 to commence a system of competitive bidding for licenses in the 3.45 GHz band by the end of this year.