T-Mobile, US Cellular Named FCC Incentive Auction Winners
The FCC today marked the official end of the incentive auction for 600 MHz airwaves. The agency said 50 wireless companies bid a cumulative $19.8 billion on some 70 MHz of spectrum that was put on offer by 175 television stations. In total, the FCC sold some 2,776 licensed spectrum blocks. An additional 14 MHz has been reserved for unlicensed use. The low-band spectrum is seen as ideal for wireless broadband due to its strong propagation properties. T-Mobile, Dish, Comcast, and U.S. Cellular are among the biggest winners, according to the FCC. T-Mobile said it won 45% of all low-band spectrum sold, covering 100% of the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The company claims it scored 31 MHz of nationwide spectrum, a fourfold increase in its low-band holdings. The FCC will now embark on a 39-month odyssey that will see the owners of the spectrum give it up so it can be repurposed for wireless broadband. Some of the TV station owners have agreed to move to lower channels, while others will give up their licenses and remain on the air through spectrum sharing. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, "The conclusion of the world’s first incentive auction is a major milestone in the FCC’s long history as steward of the nation’s airwaves. Consumers are the real beneficiaries, as broadcasters invest new resources in programming and service, and additional wireless spectrum opens the way to greater competition and innovation in the mobile broadband marketplace." The auction was put in motion back in 2012, though bidding didn't begin until March 2016. The FCC says the auction will lay the groundwork for 5G services.
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"T-Mobile now has the largest swath of unused low-band spectrum in the country," said T-Mobile CEO John Legere about the company's 600 MHz auction winnings. The company successfully won an average of 31 MHz (ranging between 20 MHz and 50 MHz) of the 70 MHz low-band spectrum auctioned off by TV stations and the FCC.