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The Federal Communications Commission kicked off a mid-band spectrum auction to support next generation wireless services – including 5G – in the 3.45 GHz band.  Auction 110 will make available 100 megahertz of contiguous mid-band spectrum for commercial use this year. 

“We are moving with record speed and collaboration to free up more mid-band spectrum for 5G,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “These airwaves are a critical part of unlocking the 5G promise everywhere in the country.  I want to thank the FCC staff who have worked so hard to start this auction this year.  And I want to thank our partners at NTIA and the Department of Defense for working with us to free up this spectrum for 5G.”

As required by law, auction proceeds must cover 110% of the expected sharing and relocation costs for federal users currently operating in the band – in this case $14,775,354,330, based on a January 14, 2021 estimate from NTIA.

The 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act required the Commission to begin this auction in 2021. The FCC adopted flexible use service rules for the 3.45 GHz band in March and established procedures for Auction 110 in June. License winners will operate within a cooperative sharing framework that will enable commercial use by an array of service providers, while also ensuring that federal incumbents are still protected from harmful interference as they require continued access to the band. 

In retrospect, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile spent $80 billion in the C-band spectrum auction earlier this year, which is crucial in the rollout of 5G networks.