By Drew FitzGerald
Verizon Communications Inc. /zigman2/quotes/204980236/composite VZ -0.20% 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 +0.09% bid $23.4 billion, while T-Mobile US Inc. /zigman2/quotes/204659678/composite TMUS +2.46% 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.
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