FCC Seeks Comment on 2.5GHz Band Auction

On January 13, 2021, the FCC released a Public Notice seeking comment on the proposed format and bidding procedures for Auction 108, which will auction approximately 8,300 geographic overlay licenses in the 2.5 GHz band (“the Auction”).  The FCC will offer up to three blocks of spectrum (49.2 megahertz, 50.5 megahertz, and 16.5 megahertz) licensed on a county basis.  The 49.5 megahertz block will include channels A1-A3, B1-B3, and C1-C3; the 50.5 megahertz block will include channels D1-D3, the J channels, and channels A4-G4; and the 16.5 megahertz block will include channels G1-G2 and the relevant K channels.  The specific inventory of available overlay licenses will be released after the applications submitted through the Rural Tribal Priority Window are processed.

The FCC proposes to conduct the Auction using either a single bidding round, after which winners would be announced, or a simultaneous multiple-round ascending (“SMR”) auction format and seeks comment on which proposal should be adopted.

Single Bidding Round Auction Format

The proposal for the single round differs from the multi-round procedures the FCC typically uses to auction spectrum licenses.  The FCC proposes to use a single bidding round that would remain open long enough to give bidders ample time to submit, review and potentially resubmit, and confirm their bids.  Given the large number of licenses available for this Auction, the FCC anticipates that a single round bidding process would conclude faster than a multi-round format, and that the single round format may help overcome some of the inherent advantages to incumbent holders and increase the overall competition in the auction.  For the single round auction format, the FCC seeks comment on: imposing a pay-as-bid pricing rule; bidding activity and eligibility; minimum bid amounts and reserve prices; permitting and utilizing package bidding; use of an either/or indicator in assigning winning bids; and bid processing and winning bids.

SMR Auction Format

The FCC alternatively proposes to use an SMR auction format where every license is offered for bid at the same time and the auction consists of successive bidding rounds in which bidders may place bids on individual licenses.  Bidding would remain open on all licenses until bidding stops on every license.  For the SMR auction format, The FCC seeks comment on: the bidding rounds; establishing a stopping rule; establishing an activity rule; establishing and use of an activity rule waiver and reducing eligibility; reserving price or minimum opening bids; bid amounts; previously winning bids; and bid removal and bid withdrawal.

Other Procedural Issues

Consistent with the 2.5 GHz Report and Order, the FCC will conduct the Auction in conformity with the amended Part 1 rules.  The FCC seeks comment on several issues related to this decision, including:

  • Requiring a certification that an applicant seeking to participate in the Auction has read the public notice adopting procedures for the Auction;
  • Bidding caps on the total bidding credit amount that an eligible small business, very small business, or rural service provider may be awarded in the Auction;
  • Subjecting nationwide providers to the prohibition of certain communications;
  • Preventing the sharing of information about applicants bids and bidding strategies during the bidding process;
  • Requiring upfront payments to become eligible to bid; and
  • An additional default payment percentage.

Comments will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Reply Comments will be due 75 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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