By Drew FitzGerald 

Verizon Communications Inc. secured the biggest share of wireless airwaves offered in a U.S. government auction that racked up a record $81 billion in bids, according to details released Wednesday.

Verizon pledged $45.5 billion for the midrange spectrum rights, which can extend the reach and bandwidth of its fifth-generation wireless service. AT&T Inc. bid $23.4 billion, while T-Mobile US Inc. bid $9.3 billion.

The results answered a question that has absorbed wireless-industry investors since the Federal Communications Commission started the auction in December. Purchases of licenses to use certain airwaves are among the biggest checks a cellphone carrier can write.

Wireless companies have snapped up ever-larger chunks of the electromagnetic spectrum to keep up with their customers' growing demand for music, video and software streamed to their smartphones. A shortage of the asset can degrade service, putting a carrier at a competitive disadvantage.

The most recent spectrum sale offered cellular companies, cable-TV providers and other qualified bidders a chance to expand their wireless operations into the C-band range, a swath of airwaves previously restricted to satellite communications. The commission auctioned off 280 megahertz of the band, leaving the rest to incumbent satellite users and guard bands to block interference.

Strong demand for the 5G-friendly frequencies drove initial bids to a record $80.9 billion. A second phase designed to sort out the license types awarded to each bidder pushed the total last week to $81.2 billion.

(More to come)

Write to Drew FitzGerald at andrew.fitzgerald@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 24, 2021 16:41 ET (21:41 GMT)

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