The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched a nationwide auction of “prime” spectrum in the 3.55 to 3.65Ghz range this week, signaling the first chance for national and regional carriers in the country to bid on seven separate mid band segments of spectrum per county to bolster their existing 5G holdings.
As VentureBeat reports, the auction — referred to as ‘Auction 105’ — consists of 22,631 “priority access licenses” which cover various counties spread throughout the United States, and will in essence convert the existing 70Mhz spectrum into seven 10Mhz slices to be purchased either in bundles or individually.
Various auctions in the U.S. have so far mostly focused on deployments of low and high band spectrum for its 5G networks, while elsewhere carriers have been focusing mostly on mid band spectrum of a similar range to what is being offered in Auction 105.
Because 5G can allow for low or high band spectrum to be combined with mid band for improved performance, the more spectrum carriers can collect at auctions such as this, the more overall bandwidth they will have available to their customers.
Mid band spectrum’s ability to offer longer distance propagation than the low band that most carriers have in use today makes it more desirable in the 5G era.
While countries like China, South Korea and some European countries have already allocated 3.5Ghz spectrum to their default standards for their national 5G offerings, the FCC in the U.S. has prioritized the needs of some incumbent users such as the Navy, and the 3.5Ghz licenses it is offering come with a requirement to share spectrum with top priority government users before licensees and other users.
Until now, Sprint’s 2.5Ghz spectrum (recently folded into T-Mobile’s network due to an acquisition) holding is the closest to mid band that any U.S. carrier has been, though with Auction 105 other carriers will be able to compete with them, while at the same time allowing (T-Mobile) to bolster its offerings.
Delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Auction 105 was originally scheduled to take place earlier this year, with over 270 applicants having received the necessary approval to bid.