Government raises $19.8 billion in airwaves auction

This move is all about catching up to Verizon and AT&T.

The 70MHz in new spectrum available will allow carriers to provide fast 5G service in coming years, FCC officials have said.

On the other hand, T-Mobile has a lot to gain by laying the groundwork to put it on par with AT-&T and Verizon.

T-Mobile will pay $7.99 billion for 1,525 licenses spread throughout the country, according to the results announced today.

Right now, the 600MHz spectrum is used by television broadcasters, and it won't clear until early 2020 or so.

In addition, current smartphone models do not support 600 MHz, though Qualcomm, the world's biggest supplier of modems for smartphones, is preparing new chips to support the frequency. But it still means that there's going to be a several-year period for these new airwaves to be phased in and for T-Mobile subscribers to gain access to it. Already the carrier has purchased XO Communications in part to obtain that company's portfolio of high-band, millimeter-wave spectrum licenses.

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With this new spectrum, T-Mobile US can expand its LTE network coverage and further improve service quality.

The FCC decided they would shuffle things around on the spectrum to auction off that space. Over the course of the auction, analysts had predicted that T-Mobile US would spend $8 billion, but incorrectly estimated the amount of spectrum the company would obtain.

T-Mobile just made its largest investment ever by spending almost $8 billion (!) to acquire 45% of the FCC's available 600MHz low-band spectrum that was up for auction. "The benefits to broadband users and the economy flow not just from spectrum being transferred, but its actual use-equipment must be built out and turned on". So maybe it'll do something this time. The cable operator shelled out $1.7 billion for the 600MHz airwaves. It is unclear what they plan to do with the money. Comcast now has plans to expand into a mobile service deal alongside Verizon, and this could be seen as a step in that direction for the company. Comcast gained favorable terms on that deal by selling spectrum off to Verizon in the past, so it's possible this acquisition could be about leverage. (NYSE: T) spent just $910.2 million.

US Cellular won 188 licenses in 92 areas for $328.7 million.

Sprint and Verizon Communications didn't bid at all in the spectrum auction. The Commission's auction rules that encouraged widespread participation in the forward auction and promoted competition appear to have been successful. This auction may have been a huge win for T-Mobile, but it's ultimately still playing catch-up.

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