FCC Plans Major Spectrum Auction in 2019

The FCC said Wednesday that it is planning "a major 5G spectrum auction in 2019," that combines the upper 37GHz, 39GHz and 47GHz millimeter wave bands, and will be held as an "innovative" incentive auction, the agency says.

The agency is currently holding its first 5G auction -- of the 28GHz band -- right now. This is expected to be quickly followed by the auction of the 24GHz band. (See The FCC's 5G Auction Rolls On, FCC: High-Band 5G Spectrum Cleared for Take-Off in 2019 and Trump Bill Paves Way for US 5G Spectrum Auction Later in 2018.)

The FCC is continuing this breakneck pace of high-band auctions anticipated in 2019, so the US can "win" the global race for 5G. Millimeter waves are expected to enable multimegabit, or gigabit, wireless services in the US in the next few years. (See America Is Losing the 5G Race, Says Deloitte and T-Mobile & Sprint Tell Senate US Will Win Global 5G Race.)

"The airwaves in the combined upper 37 GHz and 39 GHz bands are the largest amount of contiguous spectrum available for wireless service in the millimeter wave bands -- 2,400 megahertz in total -- while the 47 GHz band provides an additional 1,000 megahertz of spectrum," the FCC said in a statement on the latest auction plans Wednesday. (See FCC OKs Auction Rules for High-Band Spectrum .)

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To undertake the auction, the FCC plans to auction off 100MHz spectrum blocks licensed by Partial Economic Areas (PEAs). The FCC lists 416 PEAs in the US, from New York City to American Samoa.The FCC wants to undertake simultaneous sell-off of licenses in the upper 37GHz, 39GHz and 47GHz bands with the auction.

The auction is intended to encourage satellite services to consolidate or move off the mmWave freqencies that would be used by 5G providers. The FCC says the incentive part will have two phases: A first where bidders may bid on "generic license blocks," and a second, where the "generic license" winners can bid on "specific frequencies."

"Incentive payments will be offered to incumbents who choose to relinquish their spectrum usage rights to make new licenses available," the FCC says.

There's no timeline given yet for when the auction could happen in 2019.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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