FCC Sets Rules for 5G mmWave Auction 103, Largest Spectrum Auction in U.S. History

The FCC has established procedures for 5G millimeter wave auction 103, which will be the largest spectrum auction in U.S. history.

This will be the third auction of high band millimeter wave spectrum for 5G. It will include the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz bands and include as much as 3,400 MHz of spectrum. This makes it’s the largest spectrum auction in history, measured by the amount of available spectrum. That probably won’t translate to the largest in dollars committed though.

The bidding in 5G millimeter wave auction 103 will begin on December 10, 2019. The FCC on July 10 issued a public notice that provided details on a number of issues, including procedures, terms, conditions, dates and deadlines. It also provided information on post-auction application and payment processes. Auction 103 is an incentive auction that will provide payments to holders of licenses in the 39 GHz to give up their usage rights. The press release lays out the approach being taken by the FCC.

“The auction will offer licenses for 100 megahertz blocks of spectrum in Partial Economic Areas (PEA) through a clock phase and an assignment phase,” the release reads. “The clock phase will allow bidding on generic blocks in two categories—one for Upper 37 GHz and 39 GHz, and one for 47 GHz—in each PEA. The clock phase will serve to determine both the winners of generic spectrum blocks and the amount of incentive payments due to those incumbent licensees in the 39 GHz band that opt to relinquish their spectrum usage rights. The assignment phase will allow bidding for frequency-specific license assignments, while ensuring contiguous block assignments within a PEA.”

The FCC also plans to auction off a portion of spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band that was set aside in the 1960s for educational purposes. The FCC allows the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) to be used for broadband initiatives supporting education. Some deployments have occurred and some license holders have leased spectrum to Sprint and other commercial mobile network operators.


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