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FCC to Launch 5G Spectrum Auctions

WASHINGTON—The FCC has voted to launch its first 5G spectrum auctions targeting 6,000 licenses in the 28-GHZ and 24-GHz bands. The vote was unanimous, though FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn concurred, which was short of full-throated support given some concerns she had with portions of the item.

The vote was on a public notice seeking comment on the proposed application and bidding procedures for the spectrum.

The auction for 28-GHz spectrum will begin Nov. 14, with the 24-GHz auction following immediately after the first auction's conclusion. The FCC also asks whether and what particular rules should apply to the auctions, such as prohibiting certain communications, for example. The 5G auctions will be the first since the broadcast incentive auction freed up TV spectrum for wireless broadband.

Clyburn's less-than-enthusiastic support stemmed from several concerns she has around issues including which auction should come first and whether to permit parties to apply for the second auction before the first is closed.

FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel suggested it was about time the FCC held such auctions. "[I]t is troubling that this agency has watched as South Korea, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Romania have already announced plans for 5G auctions," she said. "Today, thankfully, this agency takes steps to put ourselves back in the running. I’m glad my colleagues are ready to get back on track. Today we schedule our first 5G auction and finally get out of the starting gate."

FCC chair Ajit Pai suggested that the timing had to do with an obstacle not of the FCC's making.

[Read: Pai Signals FCC To Start New Spectrum Auctions This Year]

"It’s important to mention that we will be able to commence spectrum auctions later this year because of recent legislative action," Pai said. "I’m grateful to Congress for passing, and the President for signing, legislation fixing a technical problem involving upfront payments by auction bidders for spectrum."

He said that was what had stood in the way of holding the auctions, and said he was "grateful that we were able to roll up our sleeves and work together with Congress and the Executive Branch to remove this roadblock."

Pai was referring to a provision in FCC reauthorization legislation that included a "fix" allowing the FCC "to deposit upfront payments from spectrum bidders directly with the U.S. Treasury," without which the FCC would be unable to conduct future spectrum auctions.

“Charter applauds the Federal Communications Commission for continuing to prioritize spectrum availability for the next generation of wireless connectivity that will position the U.S. to compete on the global stage in the race to 5G," said the company. "Today’s Public Notice seeking comment on procedures for upcoming auctions in the 28 GHz and 24 GHz bands is an important step towards increasing the amount of spectrum commercially available for 5G. 5G represents the next generation of wireless technology that together with our advanced high speed network will enable Charter to ultimately provide our customers a truly ubiquitous connected experience powered by ultra-fast, low latency broadband.”

“AT&T commends the FCC for moving forward with mmWave spectrum auctions later this year," said AT&T EVP Joan Marsh. "The 24 GHz and 28 GHz bands, which are the focus of today’s Spectrum Frontiers public notice, are an important piece in the mix of spectrum that will be required to make 5G a reality. We are encouraged by the Commission’s commitment to make this necessary spectrum available, and we are hopeful similar auction rules for the 37 GHz and 39 GHz bands are soon to follow.”

“CTIA applauds the FCC for moving forward with the first high-band spectrum auctions for 5G use," said CTIA SVP Scott Bergman. "Spectrum availability is a key input in the readiness and ability of the U.S. to win the global race to 5G. We look forward to working with the Commission on implementing these critical auctions and on identifying and auctioning additional bands, including mid-band spectrum, to power the wireless networks of the future.”

This article originally appeared in Broadcasting & Cable.