Verizon & DISH Dominate at CBRS Auction

It’s no surprise that Verizon showed up to the CBRS auction for the 3.5 GHz Priority Access Licenses (PALs) ready to spend some money. The carrier committed over $1.89 billion in bids with DISH Network, bidding under Wetterhorn Wireless, as the second-largest spender with $912.9 million in bids. Other top bidders included Charter Communications spending $464 million, Comcast spent $458 million, and Cox Communications spending $212 million. One noticeable absentee from bidding in this auction was AT&T. 

The auction sold off the biggest number of spectrum licenses ever in a single FCC auction that included 70 MHz in the 3550-3650 MHz band. Auction 105 started on July 23rd and ended on August 25th with DISH Network coming out on top with the most licenses according to the FCC’s top five bidders, with 5,492 PALs won. SAL Spectrum LLC won 15569 PALs and AMG Technology Investment Group, who owns Nextlink, won 1,072 licenses. Windstream Services fell into fourth with 1,014 PALs and XF Wireless Investment/Comcast rounding out the top 5 with 830 PALs won. 

Though Verizon didn’t walk away with the most licenses, the FCC results show that the company won 557 PALs in 157 counties and its results don’t come as a shock considering the need for mid-band spectrum. Though T-Mobile wasn’t a big spender at this auction, they did commit to paying $5,583,000 for eight PALs in six counties. T-Mobile holds a considerable amount of mid-band spectrum through the merger with Sprint, so the “Un-Carrier” is not in dire need of mid-band spectrum like Verizon is. 

Surprisingly, cable was the biggest star of the show at the CBRS auction. Mark Lowenstein, managing director of Mobile Ecosystem, said, “This shows their commitment to being in mobile longer term,” he continued, “They also want to wean themselves off the MVNO relationship with Verizon, where they pay unfavorable rates for data. Could be quite powerful in conjunction with Wi-Fi 6 and the significant added Wi-Fi capacity that the FCC recently authorized for Wi-Fi in the 6 GHz band.”

Lowenstein also noted that while it’s surprising to some that AT&T didn’t participate in the mid-band auction, the carrier will likely go big during the C-band auction happening this December. Verizon is also expected to spend even more during that auction and T-Mobile is also set to spend more then as well. The auction also had some unexpected players, including members of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), an organization that represents hundreds of WISPs across the US. Midcontinent Communications, won 269 licenses for $8.8 million. The inclusion of smaller players was because the CBRS PALs are based on counties rather than Partial Economic Areas (PEAs) which are traditionally larger. 

“We congratulate the WISPA members who won licenses, many of whom participated in spectrum auctions for the first time,” said Louis Peraertz, VP of Policy for WISPA, in a statement. “Bidding activity was fierce, especially so in localities outside of major metro areas. This proves smaller bidding licensing actually bring more money to the U.S. Treasury, as well as more diverse bidders to the plate, ultimately helping American broadband consumers get the services they demand and need.”

Other unexpected non-traditional players include Shenandoah Cable Television with 262 licenses for $16 million, Chevron with 26 licenses for $1 million, Deere & Company with 5 licenses for $545,999, and Texas A&M University with one license for $39,000. 

Payments are due September 17th with final payments due on October 1st. 

Source: Fierce Wireless