The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held its wireless spectrum access auction yesterday, at which various companies bid against one another for the right to use selected frequencies for airwaves around the U.S.—thereby allowing them to offer the highest-speed connectivity for users.
While it won’t surprise any Fast Company readers to hear that high-speed Internet is big business—learning just how big shocked even the most seasoned analysts. Ahead of the FCC’s AWS-3 wireless spectrum auction, only 3% of Morgan Stanley investors thought total bids would top $35 billion. In the end, the auction raised a record $44.9 billion—with AT&T placing the largest bid of $18.2 billion.
Other leading bidders included Dish, Verizon, and T-Mobile, which entered the fray with $13.3 billion, $10.4 billion, and $1.8 billion, respectively. On the list of winning bids, Northstar and SNR also won numerous contracts for different regions.
“Improving consumer access to wireless broadband is a priority of mine, and has been a priority of the commission over the past five years,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. “Now, an additional 65 megahertz of spectrum is available to improve wireless connectivity across the country and accelerate the mobile revolution that is driving economic growth and improving the lives of the American people. The results of this auction confirm the strong market demand for more spectrum.”
Although high-speed internet has long been important, the rise of bandwidth-hoggin’ streaming video and always-on subscription-based media services means that it is now more of a selling point with customers than ever before.