By Emily Bary
Verizon Communications Inc. was overwhelmingly the largest bidder in a crucial 5G auction, spending $45.5 billion or more than half the auction’s total sum.
AT&T Inc. spent $23.4 billion at the C-band auction, the Federal Communications Commission disclosed Wednesday afternoon, while T-Mobile US Inc. spent $9.3 billion. The auction allotted spectrum to 21 bidders in total, bringing in $81.2 billion.
Shares of Verizon /zigman2/quotes/204980236/composite VZ 0.00% and AT&T /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T +0.07% were each off 0.4% in after-hours trading Wednesday, while T-Mobile shares /zigman2/quotes/204659678/composite TMUS +1.21% rose 4.8%.
The auction offered wireless companies access to mid-band spectrum that will be useful as the carriers build out their 5G networks. While the carriers have begun building out 5G networks that largely rely on low-band and millimeter-wave spectrum, mid-band spectrum is expected to be more useful for everyday 5G.
Of the three major U.S. carriers, only T-Mobile had a substantial amount of mid-band spectrum prior to the auction, which the company gained through its acquisition of Sprint last year. The auction drew far greater proceeds than many analysts initially suspected, leading some to believe that T-Mobile bid considerably at the auction to drive up prices for its rivals, which had a more crucial need for this type of spectrum.
The three largest U.S. carriers were by far the biggest bidders in the auction, with the fourth-largest winning bid total coming from U.S. Cellular Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203420412/composite USM +0.97% , which spent $1.3 billion. Little Bear Wireless, which reports from industry publications indicated was the name used on behalf of Dish Network Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207505872/composite DISH +0.05% , spent only $2.5 million. The satellite company is working on building out its own wireless network but already sits on a wealth of spectrum.
Verizon shares have lost 5.8% over the past three months, as AT&T shares have risen 0.5% and as T-Mobile shares have fallen 6.8%.