CBA sets C-band auction principles

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The FCC has yet to make its mind up on whether to grant the C-Band Alliance its permission to auction of 300 MHz of satellite spectrum over the US. But the CBA is very much ready to proceed with its plans.

On October 29th the CBA, in a filing to the FCC, said it had linked with a number of national, regional, and rural wireless operators in an FCC filing detailing a set of principles to guide a process for auctioning off terrestrial rights to C-band spectrum.

“Consistent with the goal of clearing spectrum and completing the auction efficiently and expeditiously, the CBA has proposed to clear a first tranche of 120 MHz of spectrum, inclusive of the 20-MHz guard band, in 46 top metropolitan zones within 18 months of an FCC order. The second tranche of the remaining spectrum would be made available within 36 months of the C-band auction, providing cleared spectrum throughout the entire continental US,” said the statement.

The CBA explained its planning: “The auction design outlined in the principles agreed to by the CBA and the wireless operators addresses the shared goals of fairness and transparency and assures that the auction is open to all qualified bidders, consistent with FCC practice. The auction principles suggest use of a multi-round ascending clock auction format that is substantively similar to other recent FCC auctions. The principles call for a single auction that would include all proposed cleared spectrum, divided into 20 MHz blocks based on PEAs, regardless of clearing timing or tranche. Other principles detailed in the filing include the setting of an aggregate reserve price and the agreement for participants to be bound by the FCC’s communications rules, reporting obligations, and enforcement.”

The CBA added that a portion of the revenues achieved through the auction would be vested to the US Treasury. “As the CBA has previously committed, the joint principles call for a portion of the auction proceeds, beyond what is needed to cover the costs of the auction and the transition of the spectrum, to be contributed to the US Treasury.”

C-Band Alliance CEO Bill Tolpegin said: “The alignment of stakeholders in the creation of an open and competitive 5G environment in the US is a significant step forward and a win for all concerned. An expeditious sales process that is transparent, well-understood by potential buyers, and consistent with FCC processes paves the way for our clearing of the spectrum and the deployment of 5G services in C-band within 18 months of an FCC order. We are confident that the CBA proposal generates the greatest value for the US in terms of both public interest and economic benefit.  It is the right path for enabling 5G leadership in the United States.”

In its letter to the FCC the CBA stated: “While we may not agree on all facets of how this proceeding should be resolved, there is strong consensus that all potential, qualified bidders should be welcome to participate and have clarity on the rules and procedures that will govern the sales and licensing process.  Openness and transparency are critical to achieving a successful transition for all interested parties. We urge the Commission to use the principles set forth below to give certainty to interested stakeholders through a swift resolution to this proceeding.”

Key elements of the plan state:
– The FCC to have oversight
Auction of 280 MHz in 20 MHz blocks
– The bidding process must be transparent
– No sealed bids at any point in the auction
– No combinatorial or package bidding
– Release of bid data round-by-round consistent with recent FCC auction information practice
– Use of the FCC’s limited information disclosure procedures to safeguard against anticompetitive conduct
– All applicants must agree to be bound by the FCC’s prohibited communication rules, including reporting obligations to, and enforcement by, the FCC


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