$19.8 billion airwaves auction may mean better cell service

Comcast, the top USA cable company, last week announced a wireless service.

The huge swath of spectrum comes from a almost yearlong FCC auction that wrapped up at the end of last month, the results of which are being revealed today.

The auction raised $20 billion overall, of which about $10 billion will go to the owners of TV stations that sold their broadcast license rights, which will be converted for use by wireless phone networks.

Of the $19.8 billion bid, more than $7 billion will go to reduce the USA deficit and $10.05 billion to broadcasters relinquishing spectrum.

Of the non-participating stations, 957 will have to change channels to clear spectrum that was sold to wireless carriers. Dish has been hoovering up spectrum for several years now. The licenses are for spectrum in the 600MHz range, which in terms of spectrum, is some seriously high-quality stuff.

But much to some observers' dismay, the analysts gradually lowered their expectations over the following months, and in the end, cellular carriers mostly stayed out of TV airwaves auction.

Of the $19.8 billion being raised to acquire 84 megahertz of spectrum, more than $6 billion will go to reduce the US deficit, more than $10 billion will go to broadcasters that chose to relinquish spectrum rights, and up to $1.75 billion for other broadcasters that incur costs in changing channels.

"It is encouraging to see that competitive carriers and potential new entrants secured the majority of the spectrum auctioned". Rather than an outright purchase of the licenses, Verizon agreed to remain open to an MVNO relationship with the cable operators, presumably lowering the price tag for the spectrum in return.

While T-Mobile won the largest number of licenses spending $8 billion, Dish came in second, after committing $6.2 billion, followed by Comcast with $1.7 billion spent.

But Dish isn't the only company that owns spectrum Verizon might buy.

Initial 5G deployments are expected to focus on higher band spectrum licenses in the 3.5 GHz band as well as millimeter wave bands higher than the 15 GHz band. Its Xfinity Mobile service will initially run on Verizon's wireless network. That places full spectrum availability at some point in 2020, incidentally, the same period of time when most experts expect commercial 5G services to become available to the public.

A total of 62 bidders participated in the FCC's auction.

"While we celebrate reaching the official close of the auction, there is still much work ahead of us", FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. The company is preparing to launch a new wireless MVNO that leans primarily on WiFi, but uses the Verizon Wireless network for backup.

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