The FCC has finally revealed the winners of its mid-band spectrum auction, and Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile came out on top.
Mid-band spectrum is the most coveted type of spectrum for 5G. High-band, otherwise known as mmWave, offers the fastest speeds, but its range is extremely limited, as is its ability to penetrate objects. Low-band spectrum offers the best range and penetration, but its speeds are only marginally faster than the fastest 4G. Mid-band spectrum offers the best of both worlds, providing speeds upwards of 1 Gbps, while still offering decent range and penetration.
Of the three major US carriers, Verizon and AT&T need mid-band spectrum the most. T-Mobile has a wealth of it from its merger with Sprint, spectrum it has been rolling out at a record pace. The other two carriers, on the other hand, have not been able to match T-Mobile’s 5G rollout, largely because of not having enough mid-band spectrum.
It’s little wonder the spending at the FCC’s auction far exceeded estimates. Analysts had originally predicted spending would reach $47 billion, but the total topped $81 billion.
Not surprisingly, Verizon (listed in FCC docs as Cellco Partnership, its legal name) was the biggest bidder, coming in at $45,454,843,197. AT&T came in second, spending $23,406,860,839. T-Mobile rounded out the top three at $9,336,125,147.
While T-Mobile needed, and spent, the least, the company was believed to be buying spectrum to round out its portfolio, further boost its spectrum in heavily populated areas and drive the bidding higher so Verizon and AT&T didn’t get a free ride.