FCC Moves Toward Auction of Airwaves Useful for Fast 5G Service

  • Agency in vote sets rules for gear operating in 24 GHz range
  • Auction of 24 GHz may follow sale this year of 28Ghz swathe

U.S. regulators set rules for gear operating in a swathe of airwaves that may be useful for fast 5G networks, helping to set the stage for an auction of the frequencies to mobile carriers.

The Federal Communications Commission with a 4-0 vote Thursday said equipment used in the 24 GHz airwaves must be capable of operating across all parts of that airwaves band. The requirement is designed to support full use of the airwaves.

“The FCC is taking action to unleash spectrum for the next-generation wireless services that will help grow our economy,” Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, said in a statement before the vote.

The action should lead to an early 2019 auction that could fetch $3.2 billion, according to a note Thursday from Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Kanterman. The sale would follow an auction of 28 GHz licenses late this year.

AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc. could be major bidders, given limited holdings of millimeter-wave spectrum and their big 5G ambitions, Kanterman said.

High frequencies such as 24 GHz and 28 GHz are considered ideal for the short-range, high-capacity requirements of the internet of things, a term for the millions of connected devices from cars to refrigerators that are expected to take advance of the speedy 5G connections.

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