Trump Bill Paves Way for US 5G Spectrum Auction Later in 2018

The FCC's chairman, Ajit Pai, is now promising an initial 5G auction later this year after President Trump signed an omnibus $1.3 billion bill last week.

The bill includes the Ray Baum Act, which reauthorizes the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) , allowing the agency to deposit upfront auction deposits with the US Treasury. In addition, the Mobile Now act, also in the bill, empowers it to identify new spectrum for 5G use.

"By fixing the upfront payments issue, this law will enable the FCC to commence a 5G spectrum auction later this year," Chairman Pai said in a statement. (See US Congress Ready to Vote on Allowing 5G Spectrum Auctions.)

The FCC has previously said it wanted a 5G spectrum auction in November 2018. The agency is expected to auction off spectrum from the high-band 28GHz first, with 24GHz to follow shortly after.

In July 2016, the FCC said it ultimately aims to auction off 3.85GHz of millimeter wave spectrum for 5G usage. The agency originally said high-band 5G usage would be in the licensed 28GHz, 37GHz and 39GHz bands, adding plans for 700MHz of capacity in the 24GHz band in November 2017. (See Ready, Set, Go! FCC Votes for First 5G Spectrum and FCC Wants to Open More High-Band Spectrum for 5G.)

The auction will potentially be good news for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), and T-Mobile US Inc. , among others. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) currently holds the bulk of existing US 28GHz licenses, through its purchase of older LMDS (local multipoint distribution service) licenses -- intended for fixed wireless applications -- from the XO and Straight Path acquisitions. (See Verizon Buys Straight Path for $3.1B, Beating AT&T to 5G Spectrum and Verizon Completes XO Fiber Buy; 5G Stage Set.)

The auction will open up the mmWave playing field for the other carriers. (See 741264} for the latest on US operator deployment plans.)

The Mobile Now Act, meanwhile, "will lead to the identification of at least 255 MHz of licensed and unlicensed spectrum" for 5G and more, noted Pai. (See FCC Mulls Opening Up 4.9GHz for 5G, Robots & Drones.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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