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C-band reaches $46.5B, passes AWS-3 as biggest spectrum auction ever

After just two weeks of bidding, the C-band auction for 5G spectrum now totals $46.5 billion in gross bids.

That makes the event America's biggest ever spectrum auction, surpassing the $45 billion raised in 2015 by the AWS-3 spectrum auction.

The event has shown no signs of slowing. Moreover, winning bidders might even fork out even more cash for the licenses if they decide to make "incentive" payments to incumbent C-band satellite operators like SES and Intelsat. The FCC approved up to $9.7 billion in such payments earlier this year; they're designed to encourage existing C-band spectrum users to move off the band by 2021 instead of 2023.

Winning C-band bidders will decide whether to make those incentive payments at the end of the FCC's auction.

"The C-Band auction has pushed through almost everyone's expectations," noted the financial analysts with New Street Research in a note to investors Monday.

The firm had the highest bid projection before the start of the auction. The New Street analysts predicted C-band bidders would dole out a total of $51 billion in bids. That was far more than the $21 billion predicted by the analysts at Raymond James and the $35.2 billion predicted by the analysts at Morgan Stanley Research.

Bidding in the C-band auction will stop when bidders stop placing new bids. That's expected to happen in January. The FCC will announce the identity of the winning bidders when the auction ends.

Wall Street investors may be worrying over the rising totals in the C-band auction. Shares for Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Dish Network have been slowly falling since December 8, when the auction started.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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