PALs: Bidding narrows as auction clears $4 billion

As the Priority Access License auction closes out another week of bidding, the focus of bidders has narrowed, with fewer than 100 licenses still in contention.

Bidding in the Priority Access License auction moves to four rounds today; four additional rounds are scheduled for Monday.

After 44 rounds, the CBRS PALs auction has raised just over $4 billion. The number of counties that are still seeing competitive bids was at 93 counties out of the more than 3,200 counties in the U.S. and its territories.

According to analysis by Sasha Javid, COO at BitPath and former chief data officer and legal advisor on the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, the average price per megahertz/POP was at $0.195499 after the 44th round of bidding. Comparatively, the last three millimeter wave auctions stacked up with nationwide price per MHz/POPs and totals raised of:

  • Auction 101 (28 GHz): $0.0113 MHz/POP, $702 million raised
  • Auction 102 (24 GHz): $0.009112 MHz/POP, $2 billion raised
  • Auction 103 (upper 37, 39 and 42 GHz): $0.007110 MHz/POP, $7.5 billion raised

The PALs with the highest prices as of the close of Round 44 are:

  • Los Angeles county, CA: $52 million
  • San Diego county, CA: $21.1 million
  • Orange county, CA: $20.6 million
  • Harris county, TX: $19.1 million
  • Maricopa county, AZ: $16.2 million

The LA, San Diego and Orange county have all maintained their positions as the three most-expensive PAL counties in recent rounds, but beyond that, the priciest licenses are still shifting among those listed above as well as Kings county, NY.

However, the most demand in Round 44 was focused on counties with small-to-mid-sized populations. The counties with the highest excess demand as of Round 44 were New Haven county, CT, with 13 bidders vying for seven PALs; and Tulsa and Oklahoma county, OK with 12 bidders each. Six counties have 11 bidders and nearly a dozen counties still have 10 bidders pursuing the seven available licenses. Of the top 20 counties with the most demand as of Round 44, only one (Palm Beach county, FL) has a population of more than 1 million.

The auction will continue until demand is equal to or less than the supply of available PALs.

The auction could see fresh enthusiasm among the  271 qualified bidders on news this week from the White House and Department of Defense that contiguous spectrum at 3.45-3.55 GHz will be opened up for terrestrial 5G wireless service, with an auction potentially happening as soon as late 2021.

The CBRS Priority Access License auction, known as Auction 105, makes available 22,631 PALs  in the CBRS band at 3.5 GHz. That figure breaks down to seven PALs per county-based license area across the United States: the highest number of licenses that the FCC has ever made available in a single auction. Each PAL consists of a 10 megahertz unpaired channel at 3.55-3.65 GHz. Entities can bid on up to four PALs per license area and aggregate them; in addition to PALs, 80 megahertz of the 150 megahertz band is available for use under the General Authorized Access (GAA) tier of the CBRS spectrum-sharing framework. If PALs are unsold at the close of the auction, the spectrum can be assigned for GAA use.

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