After 45 rounds that have raised $69.8 billion in bids from a field of 57 qualified bidders, the C Band auction is taking a break for the holidays. The auction will resume January 4.
The auction’s total raised has far exceeded estimates and has brought in more gross bids than other other Federal Communications Commission auction—and it’s not over yet. More than half of the available license-types are still seeing active competition; as of round 45, demand exceeded the supply of available licenses for 235 of the license products. Demand was equal to supply for 217 license products.
Comparatively, the previous largest auction was the AWS-3 auction that ran in 2014-2015 and raised nearly $45 billion.
License prices are eye-popping. Individual licenses in the New York City area are the most expensive, at more than $515 million per license.
The 3.7 GHz service is divided into 5,684 licenses, or 14 sub-blocks in each of 406 available Partial Economic Areas across the United States. The A block consists of 100 megahertz (five 20-megahertz sub-blocks) from 3.7-3.8 GHz; that spectrum will be the first to be cleared, with a deadline of December 2021. The B block consists of 100 megahertz (five 20-megahertz sub-blocks) from 3.8-3.9 GHz) and the C block makes up the final 80 megahertz with four 20-megahertz sub-blocks; that spectrum is slated to be cleared by December 2023. (There is also a 20-megahertz guard band at 3.98-4.0 GHz; satellite operators will move their operations into the top 200 megahertz of the band from 4.0-4.2 GHz.)
The A-block’s prices reflect the additional desirability that comes with more rapid availability and in many markets, those licenses are going for more than the corresponding BC blocks. In Los Angeles, for example, the A block licenses are going for nearly $458 million apiece, while the BC blocks have bids of $416.5 million.
In the largest PEAs, the licenses are being bid upon separately as A-blocks and BC-blocks. In the rest of the remaining 360 PEAs, the licenses are being bid upon as a single (ABC) category.
Beyond NYC and Los Angeles, the most expensive licenses are in Chicago, IL ($213 million for A blocks, $202 for BC blocks) and San Francisco, CA ($213 million for A blocks, $203 million for BC blocks) and Baltimore-Washington D.C ($194 million for any block-type).
On an average price per megahertz-POP basis across blocks, the most expensive markets as of Round 45 were Omaha, NE ($1.76 per MHz/POP); Phoenix, AZ ($1.69 per MHz/POP); Milwaukee, WI ($1.66 per MHz/POP); Las Vegas, NV ($1.59 per MHz/POP); and Miami, FL ($1.55 per MHz/POP) according to analysis by Sasha Javid, COO of BitPath and formerly lead of the Federal Communications Commission’s auction team.
The C Band spectrum will provide an injection of highly desired midband spectrum for 5G deployment in the U.S., with greater available capacity than other sub-6 GHz airwaves and better propagation characteristics than millimeter wave.
Two rounds of bidding were held today. When daily bidding resumes in January, it will continue with five, 30-minute bidding rounds each day.