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Illustration: Sarah Grillo, Rebecca Zisser/Axios

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.

Go deeper

Oct 12, 2020 - Technology

White House pushes Pentagon to jumpstart a national 5G network

Verizon upgrades a cell tower near Orem, Utah for 5G service. Photo: George Fret/AFP via Getty Images

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is leaning on the Pentagon to move ahead with a plan to stand up a 5G wireless network, sources tell Axios, and the idea, despite opposition from key government and private-sector players, could well outlive the Trump administration.

Why it matters: The Department of Defense could lease out capacity to wireless carriers and other companies in need of the ubiquitous, high-speed connectivity that 5G technology promises. That prospect makes this the Trump administration's most serious push toward a federally backed national 5G network since it first floated the idea in 2018.

1 hour ago - World

Italy tightens COVID restrictions as experts warn of growing prevalence of variants

Health workers prepare vaccine doses in Iseo, Italy. Photo: Stefano Nicoli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Italy on Saturday announced it was tightening restrictions in five of the country's 20 regions in an effort curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Driving the news: The announcement comes as health experts and scientists warn of the more transmissible coronavirus variants, per Reuters.

2 hours ago - Health

Health care in the New Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As America emerges from the pandemic, here's a special Axios AM Deep Dive on the Biden administration's health care agenda.