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The FCC is auctioning off the first block of mmWave 5G spectrum today

The FCC is auctioning off the first block of mmWave 5G spectrum today


The 5G arms race is about to get bigger

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The text “5G” on a green background.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

5G is shaping up to be a big deal, and a huge part of that is mmWave technology — the radio signals that are much higher up the electromagnetic spectrum that are capable of carrying far more data at much faster speeds than our current LTE signals.

That’s why a key part of 5G’s success is going to come down to who controls the rights to use those bands of spectrum. Today, the first blocks of mmWave 5G are getting auctioned off by the FCC.

Things are kicking off with a 27.500–28.350 GHz band of spectrum, divided into two 425-megahertz blocks, with a total of 3,072 licenses up for auction to 45 undisclosed bidders. That’ll be followed by a chunk of 24 GHz spectrum with 2,909 licenses, as well as an auction for three more high-spectrum bands — 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz — set for 2019.

Whichever companies end up winning control of the spectrum bands, they likely won’t be using them immediately, considering the relatively early state of 5G. Several major carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, already have some mmWave spectrum in their possession, as noted by Fierce Wireless. But these auctions will be critical to watch due to the importance of having control of these spectrum licenses for building out future networks.