As the Federal Communications Commission moves quickly to open up additional millimeter wave spectrum for commercial use, it has identified 38 qualified bidders who plan to participate in the upcoming 24 GHz auction.

That’s two fewer qualified bidders than the previous mmWave auction for spectrum at 28 GHz, which concluded in late January after raising $702 million.

Qualified Auction 102 participants include AT&T, T-Mobile US, Verizon and Sprint (bidding as ATI Sub LLC); U.S. Cellular; Dish Network, bidding as Crestone Wireless; Starry Spectrum Holdings and Windstream Communications, which just recently filed for bankruptcy protections.

In addition to the 38 applicants who were deemed qualified, another 22 hopefuls fell into “nonqualified” status, the FCC reported. Qualification hinged on providing the FCC with appropriate information and certifications of a company’s status for bidding, as well as making an upfront payment.The FCC had initially taken in 60 bidding applications for the 24 GHz auction and found 58 of those complete. Would-be bidders who ended up with nonqualified status included Cox Communications, Frontier Communications, and regional provider Inland Cellular, among others. Ten of the qualified bidders will receive rural service provider bidding credits.

Although the FCC has usually makes winning bidders public shortly after the close of an auction, the winning bidders from Auction 101 will not be publicly named until after the close of Auction 102.

Auction 102 is slated to begin on Thursday, March 14. It will offer up nearly 3,000 licenses in the 24.25– 24.45 and 24.75–25.25 GHz band. The licenses up for bid are based on a Partial Economic Area geographic basis which divides the country into 416 sections. Seven blocks of 100 megahertz will be available in nearly all of the licensed markets. (The FCC noted in its auction information that the G block in some markets is completely or partially encumbered, so in a few PEAs in Arizona and Nevada, only six blocks are available.)

While the 28 GHz auction was held in the agency’s “simultaneous multiple-round” format, the FCC has said that the 24 GHz auction will use a clock auction format. It will start with a clock phase that lets participants bid on generic blocks in each PEA in successive bidding rounds, followed by an “assignment phase to allow winners of the generic blocks to bid for frequency-specific license assignments.”

The FCC is making a total of 1.55 gigahertz of spectrum available through Auctions 101 and 102. The agency plans to hold three more mmWave auctions during 2019, covering spectrum at 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz.

A mock auction will be held on March 11 in preparation for the real deal. When Auction 102 begins on the 14th, it will kick off with two rounds of bidding the first day and then four rounds per day.

The list of qualified bidders can be viewed here (pdf) and nonqualified bidders are here (pdf).


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