June 9, 2020
The FCC Tuesday released a list of entities that have registered their interest in participating in the agency's auction of CBRS 3.5GHz midband spectrum, currently scheduled to start July 23. Noteworthy names among potential bidders include AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Charter Communications, Dish Network, Cox Communications, Comcast and CenturyLink.
The auction appears to have drawn interest from entities not typically associated with spectrum bidders. For example, other names that appear among the FCC's filings include oil and gas companies like Chevron and Occidental Petroleum, tower company CellTex, fiber company Corning, agriculture equipment supplier John Deere, and the universities of Kentucky, Texas A&M and Virginia, as well as Duke University and Health System.
As in past auctions, bidders are only identified by their "bidding entity." In some cases, the identity of that bidding entity is pretty clear: For example, AT&T is bidding under the name "AT&T Spectrum Frontiers LLC." But in other cases the identity of the bidder is unclear: For example, Dish confirmed to Light Reading that it is bidding under the name "Wetterhorn Wireless."
More notable companies listed among the FCC's documents include U.S. Cellular, Cable One, Mediacom Communications, Cincinnati Bell, Frontier, Windstream, Midcontinent Communications, ATN International and Liberty Latin America. As in other spectrum auctions, a wide range of small and rural Internet service providers also registered to bid in the auction, including Viaero, Union Wireless, Bluegrass Wireless, Carolina West Wireless, LICT Wireless Broadband Company, Nemont Communications, Pine Cellular, VTel Wireless and Broadwave.
As in previous auctions, the FCC released two lists of potential auction participants. One list comprised entities that correctly filled out their auction application and another list that contained entities that did not correctly fill out their bidding application. However, entities can correct their filings, so the fact that both Verizon and T-Mobile were listed among the entities that filed incomplete applications isn't important.
The FCC's upcoming CBRS auction represents the first time the agency will release valuable midband spectrum for 5G. However, the relatively strict transmission rules governing broadcasts in the band, coupled with the relatively small geographic sizes of the spectrum licenses up for grabs, make the spectrum more appropriate for indoor applications or network enhancements rather than broad 5G coverage. Further, the CBRS auction will only offer 70MHz of spectrum, and CBRS users will need to share their spectrum with government users, mainly the US Navy.
However, the CBRS band has been touted as being able to support a wide range of services, from improving 5G networks to supporting fixed wireless offerings to powering private wireless networks to supporting IoT services.
As a result, most 5G proponents are eagerly anticipating the FCC's midband C-Band spectrum auction scheduled to start in December, which will release roughly 300MHz of unused spectrum that is ideal for broad 5G coverage and capacity.
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