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T-Mobile Leads Buyers in $19.8B FCC Airwaves Auction

For a payment of nearly $8 billion, T-Mobile yesterday potentially expanded its wireless service reach to customers across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Its acquisition of low-band spectrum came as the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) wrapped up an historic $19.8 billion auction of airwaves voluntarily relinquished by U.S. television broadcasters.

Set in motion five years ago as part of the federal Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, the FCC auction was aimed at reallocating spectrum to better serve today’s wireless communications demands. Television broadcasters that gave up portions of their low-band spectrum for auction will receive just over $10 billion in proceeds while the U.S. government plans to use more than $7 billion of the remaining proceeds to reduce the federal deficit.

In addition to T-Mobile, other companies acquiring spectrum through the FCC auction include Dish, which paid a total of $6.2 billion, and Comcast, which paid $1.7 billion. Of the other big four wireless carriers, Sprint and Verizon did not participate, while AT&T spent just $910 million for reallocated spectrum.


‘Spectrum Mother Lode’

In a video blog released after the conclusion of the auction, T-Mobile president and CEO John Legere said his company acquired “the spectrum mother lode,” 45 percent of all the low-band spectrum on offer from the FCC. That acquisition quadruples T-Mobile’s low-band holdings nationwide, he said.

“It’s the equivalent of beachfront spectrum, the stuff that works better in buildings and travels further from the tower,” Legere added.

In addition to providing better communication through walls and over long distances, more low-band spectrum in the 600 MHz range will enable wireless service providers to ease congestion and lay the groundwork for 5G connectivity, according to the FCC. A total of 50 bidders acquired 70 MHz of spectrum through the auction, with another 14 MHz available for…

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