FCC ‘Auction 105’ for 5G mid-band spectrum in the US raises $4.6bn

FCC headquarters
(Image credit: Future)

Bidding in the critical Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auction for 3.5GHz spectrum – also known as Auction 105 – has now ended. With the FCC raising  $4.6bn in gross proceeds, and selling 96.5% of the available Priority Access Licenses (PALs).

Making more spectrum available for the commercial marketplace is, according to FCC chairman Ajit Pai, “a central plank of the Commission’s 5G FAST strategy”. 

The FCC auction for 3.5GHz spectrum offered 22,631 Priority Access Licenses (PALs) in the 3550-3650 MHz band, with seven PALs being offered in each county-based license area. 

"The FCC successfully closed out the bidding in the 3.5 GHz/CBRS spectrum auction, raising almost $4.486 billion in gross proceeds."

Rick Engelman, Wiley Rein LLP.

“The FCC successfully closed out the bidding in the 3.5 GHz/CBRS spectrum auction, raising almost $4.486 billion in gross proceeds,” said Rick Engelman from Wiley Rein LLP, which has been monitoring the auction. “This was an important auction providing 70 megahertz of desirable mid-band spectrum that drew a very large number of qualified bidders (271).  It appears that this level of participation ensured healthy competition in many markets, with the largest markets generally having more than 25 rounds of competitive bidding and 20 markets with 40 or more rounds of competitive bidding.”

Prime 5G spectrum

The 3.5 GHz band has been earmarked as prime spectrum for 5G services in the US, because it offers a sweet spot between capacity and speed, with the potential to provide a big chunk of contiguous spectrum that will support channels with wide bandwidth.

And although there is no official statement from the FCC (that should come next week), and we don’t yet know which companies and organisations were successful in the auction, we do have the results for the 25 largest counties by population (see the table below). 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
25 largest counties by population
County NameStatePopulationBlocks soldBidding roundsPrice per block
Los AngelesCA9,818,605735$52,071,881
San DiegoCA3,095,313737$21,203,340
San BernardinoCA2,035,210736$12,912,000
Santa ClaraCA1,781,642725$3,551,000
BrowardFL1,748,066730$ 5,615,300
New YorkNY1,585,873736$ 9,939,000

Despite demand being high in most counties, the Commission did not sell any blocks in ten areas in Alaska (Aleutians East, Aleutians West, Bristol Bay, Dillingham, Haines, Kusilvak, Petersburg, Prince of Wales-Hyder, Skagway, and Wrangell), two counties in American Samoa (Rose Island and Swains Island), and in the Northern Marianas Islands. 

Dan Oliver

Dan is a British journalist with 20 years of experience in the design and tech sectors, producing content for the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, Dell and The Sunday Times. In 2012 he helped launch the world's number one design blog, Creative Bloq. Dan is now editor-in-chief at 5Gradar, where he oversees news, insight and reviews, providing an invaluable resource for anyone looking to stay up-to-date with the key issues facing 5G.