In a blog post published Wednesday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai confirmed that the FCC will finalize rules next month for auctions of millimeter wave spectrum in the 28 GHz and 24 GHz bands, which are expected to provide the underpinning of fifth-generation (5G) wireless broadband services throughout the U.S.

As specified in a fact sheet and draft public notice circulated by the FCC yesterday, the agency will vote on application and bidding procedures for auctions of Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (UMFUS) licenses in the 28 GHz (27.5–28.35 GHz) and 24 GHz (24.25–24.45 and 24.75–25.25 GHz) bands. The 1.55 GHz of spectrum to be sold through both auctions would be licensed on a geographic area basis, with 28 GHz licenses offered in two 425 MHz blocks by county and 24 GHz licenses offered in seven 100 MHz blocks by Partial Economic Area (PEA). Designated as Auction 101, the 28 GHz license sale would commence on November 14 and would be conducted in accordance with the FCC’s standard simultaneous multiple round (SMR) auction format in which every license is offered simultaneously through successive bidding rounds. Bidding procedures for the 24 GHz auction (i.e., Auction 102) would follow immediately after the 28 GHz sale is completed and would employ the clock auction format used during the forward phase of last year’s broadcast incentive auction.

Emphasizing, “these will be the first auctions of high-band spectrum for 5G services, but they won’t be the last,” Pai announced that the FCC will also launch rulemaking proceedings at the August 2 open meeting to pave the way toward future auctions of millimeter wave spectrum in the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz bands. In the words of a fact sheet issued yesterday, spectrum in the upper 37 GHz and 39 GHz bands is expected to provide “a critical opportunity for 5G deployment” as these channels represent “the largest amount of contiguous spectrum available for flexible-use wireless service in the millimeter wave bands.” As stated by Pai, auctions of upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz band channels would be combined into a single sale during “the second half of 2019.” To facilitate an auction on that timeline, Pai said the FCC would propose rules next month that would “clean up the 39 GHz band” and thus make that band “as attractive as possible for new bidders while consolidating incumbent spectrum licenses into more usable blocks.” Under Pai’s proposal, channels would be sold in 100 MHz blocks “so they can be more easily auctioned together.” Because existing 39 GHz band licenses “do not fit cleanly into the proposed 39 GHz band plan of 100 MHz licenses by PEA,” the draft rulemaking notice would seek comment on plans to implement an incentive auction mechanism which would “allow the efficient transition of those bands to a new flexible-use band plan,” thereby “promoting the efficient use of this spectrum by both incumbents and new licensees.”