The FCC on Thursday concluded its auction to repurpose spectrum that previously carried broadcast TV signals, and T-Mobile is the biggest winner.
The wireless carrier spent $7.99 billion to acquire 45 percent of the newly-available spectrum in what the company says is its largest-ever investment. T-Mobile's acquisition will quadruple its access to low-band spectrum, giving it the largest swath of unused low-band spectrum in the US, which it plans to use in an expansion of its LTE network
Other wireless carriers also participated, including AT&T, which spent more than $900 million on spectrum licenses, and several smaller carriers like US Cellular, which spent $329 million. Although Verizon participated in the auction under the name "Cellco Partnership," it did not win any bids. Sprint did not participate.
Other companies that acquired significant spectrum licenses in the auction include mystery bidder ParkerB.com, which spent more than $6 billion and is likely a front for Dish Networks, according to Fierce Wireless. All told, 50 winning bidders spent $19.8 billion on mobile broadband spectrum.
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Comcast participated in the auction as both a bidder and a seller. The company gave up some of its TV spectrum in New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago, walking away with proceeds of $481.6 million. Meanwhile, it also purchased $1.7 billion worth of additional spectrum licenses that could come in handy for its plans to launch wireless service.
While the auction was designed to incentivize Comcast and other owners of low-band spectrum to free it up for mobile carriers to use, it could take a while before smartphone owners see any improvement in their data speeds. That's because the FCC now has to complete a complicated "repacking" process to reorganize and assign channels to the remaining broadcast television stations to create contiguous blocks of useable spectrum.
"The faster the repacking process takes place, clearing this fresh spectrum to be put into service, the sooner we see the true benefits of this historic auction," the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation said in a statement.