The Federal Communications Commission has closed its auction of AWS-3 wireless spectrum licenses, raising a record $44.9 billion in the process. The Wall Street Journal reports that this is the largest amount of money the FCC has ever seen from a spectrum auction, and is more than double what was earned back in 2008 during the 700MHz auction. Seventy companies participated in this most recent auction, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Dish, but the FCC hasn't yet released how much each company bid. The auction was comprised of over 1,600 different licenses.
The AWS-3 airwaves cover spectrum in the 1700MHz and 2100MHz blocks, but they do not overlap with the AWS-1 spectrum that a number of carriers (most notably T-Mobile and Verizon) already use. Winners of the auction will likely use the new spectrum to bolster their existing wireless networks with greater capacity.
While this spectrum auction turned out to be much larger than most of the industry anticipated, it didn't get the same attention bestowed upon the 700MHz auction in 2008, where Google famously bid in attempts to drive the price up and force the FCC to require open-access provisions for those that won. Still to come is the incentive auction for the 600MHz airwaves, which used to carry broadcast TV signals. The lower frequency of those airwaves, which make it easier to cover large swaths of land, will certainly draw a lot of attention from the wireless carriers.