Large National Carriers Were Top CBRS Bidders

Randy Sukow


Verizon Wireless was the top bidder in the recently concluded Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) auction. It bid nearly $1.9 billion to acquire 557 licenses in 157 different counties. Bidders large, small and rural competed for the 3550-3650 MHz band Priority Access Licenses (PALs) where many expect wireless carriers to deploy 5G networks and various internet-of-things (IoT) innovations.

As the CBRS auction closed last week, it was unknown whether large national bidders would emerge as the lead investors or whether smaller entrepreneurs would show greater interest. As it turned out Verizon’s total net bids represented more than 40 percent of the total gross bids of $4,585,663,345 (PDF).

The next highest bidder was Wetterhorn Wireless, which bid just less than $913 million for 5,492 licenses (the largest number of licenses acquired) in 3,128 counties. Wetterhorn is a subsidiary of Dish Network, which could enter the national mobile voice and data business to compete with Version, AT&T and T-Mobile. T-Mobile bid $5.6 million for eight licenses in six counties; AT&T entered the auction but ended without any high bids.

The cable TV industry also figured into the auction with two of the top-five bidders in the auction. Spectrum Wireless Holdings, a subsidiary of Charter Communications, bid $464 million for 210 licenses in 106 counties, and Cox Communications bid nearly $213 million for 470 licenses in 173 counties.

Despite the large number of licenses that went to major companies, several rural providers are investing in wireless technologies as well. The list of high bidders (PDF) includes several rural companies, including NRTC telco and electric members.

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