Washington — Verizon, AT&T and Dish came away from the FCC’s AWS-3 (Advanced Wireless Services 3) spectrum auctions as the biggest winners followed by T-Mobile.
Sprint didn’t bid for the high-band spectrum because it does not have complementary AWS 1.7/2.1GHz spectrum like the other national carriers, analysts said. The AWS-3 band licenses are near the AWS band in the 1695-1710MHz, 1755-1780MHz, and 2155-2180MHz bands. Sprint, however, is expected to bid for lower-band 600MHz TV frequencies when they go up for bid in early 2016 to complement its 800MHz, 1900MHz and 2.5GHz spectrum.
The national carriers want more spectrum to accommodate growing data usage, and Dish sought spectrum to complement its existing spectrum holdings, which it hasn’t built out yet to offer cellular service.
Pointing to the need for additional data capacity, AT&T said data traffic on its wireless network grew 100,000 percent from January 2007 through December 2014.
Among the winning bidders, Verizon Communications said it won a total of 181 licenses with an aggregate bid price of $10.4 billion for licenses covering 192 million POPs, or 61 percent of the U.S. geography.
AT&T was the highest bidder with successful bids totaling $18.2 billion for licenses for “a near nationwide contiguous 10x10 MHz block of high-quality AWS-3 spectrum,” the carrier said. AT&T said it would work with network and handset suppliers and industry standards bodies to deploy the spectrum in 2017 to 2018. The carrier said it would use the spectrum for additional downlink capacity and will work with the FCC, Department of Defense and other federal agencies to get additional uplink capacity “as soon as possible.”
For its part, Dish reportedly spent $13.3 billion for spectrum. Much of it uplink spectrum that wasn’t aggressively bid upon by others, the Wall Street Journal reported. Dish didn’t comment.
Dish won 702 of the 1,611 licenses offered. Dish also owns 2GHz and 700MHz spectrum but hasn’t yet begun to offer cellular service. In 2013, the company failed to acquire Clearwire 2.5GHz spectrum or acquire Sprint to get into the cellular business.
Dish won all of its bids through entities that qualified for a 25 percent discount because they are small businesses, so Dish will pay only about $10 billion for its licenses, the Journal said.
T-Mobile’s winning bids cost $1.8 billion.
The auction raised $41.3 billion for the 1,611 licenses throughout the country.