Verizon and Dish spend big for 5G airwaves
The FCC has wrapped up its latest spectrum auction, with Verizon, Dish Network and cable companies among those with the most winning bids.
Why it matters: The auction was for midband 3.5 GHz airwaves — spectrum seen as ideal for 5G — offering a mix of faster speeds with the ability to also offer a wide coverage area.
By the numbers: Verizon won the most amount of spectrum, roughly $1.9 billion worth.
- Dish (bidding under the name Wetterhorn Wireless) spent more than $900 million.
- The next three spots were held by cable companies, led by Charter, which spent $464 million, followed by Comcast (bidding as XF Wireless Investment) at $459 million and then Cox, which spent more than $212 million.
The big picture: The U.S. has been comparatively slow to make new midband spectrum available for 5G. The result is that most wireless carriers have been either using two other options:
- Lower-frequency airwaves that can cover wide areas, but offers speeds only modestly better than LTE networks;
- And higher-frequency spectrum that can carry data very fast but only for a short distance. These signals also can have trouble penetrating buildings or other obstacles.
Yes, but: T-Mobile already has significant midband spectrum holdings which it acquired from Sprint (which in turn got the airwaves when it bought Clearwire). On Wednesday, T-Mobile announced it was adding 2.5 GHz 5G in parts of 81 more cities and towns.
What they're saying: NewStreet Research analyst Jonathan Chaplin said the bids from Verizon and the cable companies were about as expected, though Dish bid somewhat more than he had anticipated.
What's next: Another auction, for so-called C-band airwaves, is coming up in December. AT&T and T-Mobile are likely saving their spectrum dollars for that auction, Chaplin said.