Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile dominate $81 billion 5G spectrum auction

The nation's largest wireless carriers dominated the Federal Communications Commission's latest 5G spectrum auction, pushing revenue to a record-shattering price tag of more than $81 billion. The FCC released the names and winning bids of the top five bidders for the auction on Wednesday. Verizon, which bid under the name Cellco Partnership, spent the most on the auction bidding a whopping $45 billion for 3,511 spectrum licenses. AT&T came in second bidding $23 billion for 1,621 licenses. T-Mobile had the third highest bid of $9 billion for 142 licenses. The so-called C-band spectrum, which includes 500MHz of spectrum between 3.7 and 4.2GHz, has been used by satellite providers to deliver video programming to cable providers. The FCC began auctioning off 280MHz of the block of spectrum in December and ended Jan. 15. About 200MHz of the spectrum in this band has will continue to be used for TV programming. Wireless experts had expected the auction of the midband spectrum to generate a lot of interest. Some had predicted the prized spectrum could be worth as much as $60 billion. But the final tally blew through those predictions, raising more than $81 billion for the US Treasury. The high price tag and final list of winners underscores the high value the nation's largest wireless providers have placed on midband spectrum to build out their 5G networks. 5G is the next generation of wireless service, which is expected to increase network speeds and make networks more responsive. The technology could help make applications like autonomous vehicles a reality and will deliver new AR and VR experiences to smartphones. Midband spectrum, such as the C-band, is considered important for 5G deployments because it offers both geographic coverage and the capacity to transmit large amounts of data. This combination is especially appealing to wireless giants who have been trying to fill out their spectrum portfolios. "It is essential to America's economic recovery that we deliver on the promise of next generation wireless services for everyone, everywhere," FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. "This auction reflects a shift in our nation's approach to 5G toward midband spectrum that can support fast, reliable, and ubiquitous service that is competitive with our global peers."