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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.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Vulnerable Democrats: Less Trump talk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Vulnerable House Democrats are convinced they need to talk less about the man who helped them get elected: President Trump.

Why it matters: Democrats are privately concerned nationalizing the 2022 mid-terms with emotionally-charged issues — from Critical Race Theory to Donald Trump's role in the Jan. 6 insurrection — will hamstring their ability to sell the local benefits of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.