PAL auction to start July 23

Mobile network operators, cable companies and network providers large and small are set to compete for spectrum in the upcoming Citizens Broadband Radio Service spectrum auction, and they’re being joined by universities, oil and gas companies and other unconventional players who are interested in CBRS.

The Priority Access License auction will begin July 23, after being pushed back about a month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Federal Communications Commission has released a list of 106 applications that were successfully completed for the CBRS auction — though more than twice as many, 242 applications, were received but are considered incomplete. The 106 complete applicants will become qualified bidders so long as they provide an upfront payment to the FCC by June 19; the others can correct their applications and get the payment in by the same date, so the number of complete applications is likely to expand. A final list of qualified bidders will be released prior to the auction.

On the completed application list: AT&T, US Cellular, Cincinnati Bell, and smaller cellular operators such as Carolina West Wireless; and dozens of other small telecom companies, utility companies and rural electric cooperatives. Cox Communications, cable provider Mediacom and Shenandoah Cable Television are set to bid. So are Windstream and Frontier Communications, which are both in bankruptcy proceedings. Nontraditional bidders who have complete applications include oil and gas company Chevron USA, Texas A&M University – College Station and the University of Virginia Foundation.

Companies often bid under names other than their own; Light Reading has posted a list from Brian Goemmer of AllNet Insights & Analytics that untangles the not-so-obvious ownership relationships of bidding entities.

Potential bidders with incomplete applications at this point include Verizon, T-Mobile US, Dish (bidding under the name Wetterhorn Wireless), CenturyLink (bidding as Actel), Charter Communications (bidding as Spectrum Wireless Holdings), Cable One/Sparklight, and DoCoMo Pacific, which is a subsidiary of Japanese operator NTT DoCoMo that operates in the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. John Deere is on that list, as is fiber company Corning, the Dallas Independent School District, Duke University and Health System, the University of Kentucky, the Virginia Tech Foundation and the city of Donalsonville, Georgia, which has a population of about 2,650 and also operates a city-owned utility.

The CBRS Priority Access License auction, known as Auction 105, will make available 22,631 PALs  in the CBRS at 3.5 GHz. That figure breaks down to up to seven PALs per county-based license area across the United States. The auction “will offer the greatest number of spectrum licenses ever made available for bidding in a single auction,” the FCC has said, and it is intended to bolster 5G deployments as well as the internet of things and “other advanced spectrum-based services.”

Each PAL will consist of a 10 megahertz unpaired channel at 3.55-3.65 GHz. Entities can bid on up to four PALs per license area and aggregate those.

The FCC will hold a mock auction starting July 17, as a rehearsal for the actual event, which will begin July 23.

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