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Feb. 25, 2021, 12:08 p.m. EST

Verizon commits $45.5 billion to secure 5G spectrum rights

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By Drew FitzGerald

Verizon Communications Inc. /zigman2/quotes/204980236/composite VZ +1.01% secured more than half of the 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. /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T +0.67% bid $23.4 billion, while T-Mobile US Inc. /zigman2/quotes/204659678/composite TMUS +1.20% 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.

An expanded version of this article appears on WSJ.com.

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