FCC unveils plans for US 5G spectrum auctions

The FCC has released the procedures for the upcoming spectrum auctions in the US, across various bands ranging from 24 GHz through to 47 GHZ.

Looking at the 28 GHz (27.5-28.35 GHz) and 24 GHz (24.25-24.45, 24.75-25.25 GHz) bands to start with, licenses will be available through two auctions with separate application and bidding processes for each auction. Bidding for licenses in both bands will begin on November 14, starting with 28 GHz, with the 24 GHz auction starting immediately afterwards. With ‘simplicity’ in mind, the FCC has decided to format each of the auctions differently.

The auction of the licenses in the 28 GHz band will use the standard simultaneous multiple round auction format, in two 425 MHz blocks by county. The following auction for 24 GHz will make use of a clock auction format, beginning with a clock phase that will allow bidding on generic blocks in each Partial Economic Area in successive bidding rounds. An assignment phase will follow, with the 24 GHz licenses offered in seven 100 megahertz blocks.

“The 28 GHz band auction will begin on November 14, and soon after its conclusion, the 24 GHz band auction will commence,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “The 1.55 gigahertz of spectrum in these two high bands will be critical in deploying 5G wireless, Internet of Things, and other advanced spectrum-based services.

“And we’re not stopping with these two auctions. In the second half of 2019, we intend to hold an auction of three more millimeter-wave spectrum bands: 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz. Between that auction and the auctions for which we establish procedures today, we’ll push almost 5 gigahertz of spectrum into the commercial marketplace over the course of the next seventeen months.”

In terms of the mmWave spectrum, the procedures are not yet in place, though a set of proposals have been put forward to the industry. Firstly, the FCC proposes to modify the 39 GHz, Upper 37 GHz, and 47 GHz band plans from 200 megahertz to 100 megahertz channels. Secondly, the team would like to propose incentive auction that would offer contiguous blocks of spectrum throughout the 39 GHz, Upper 37 GHz, and 47 GHz bands. In the assignment phase, incentive payments would be offered to incumbents who choose to relinquish their spectrum usage rights to make new licenses available.

Next, the FCC would like to introduce a pre-auction voucher exchange that would allow incumbent licensees to consolidate and rationalize their holdings before the auction. And finally, plans to repack any incumbent licensees that choose not to participate in the incentive auction.

“This auction will make available 3.4 gigahertz of mmWave spectrum for the commercial marketplace, including 2.4 gigahertz of contiguous spectrum,” said Pai. “But not all of this spectrum is ready to be auctioned. In particular, there are too many incumbent interests in the 39 GHz band, and efforts to resolve these encumbrances voluntarily haven’t solved the problem. This calls us to act.”

Of course, the ideas presented for the mmWave auctions are only proposals for the moment. Pai and his cronies eagerly await feedback from the industry.

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