US carrier AT&T has submitted a paper to the FCC authored by a team of economists it has been working with, that lays out a plan for a millimeter-wave spectrum auction that centers around issuing incumbent spectrum holders vouchers based on their current holdings and promising all buyers contiguous holdings. The plan proposes to ensure smooth 5G connections for consumers by giving no less than 200MHz of contiguous spectrum to all buyers who purchase at least that amount at an auction. Buyers who purchase larger amounts of the spectrum would be guaranteed to receive it in contiguous blocks, each no smaller than 200MHz. This plan would not only ensure that carriers and service providers can create seamless networks for consumers, but would make the auction process more level, ensuring that incumbent spectrum holders would not box out entities with less mmWave spectrum.
The proposal was freshly submitted to the FCC, and as yet, there is no solid plan for how the FCC will auction off mmWave spectrum in preparation for large-scale commercial 5G deployments. The fact that 5G is not the only consumer-facing use for mmWave spectrum complicates matters significantly; a wide range of entities all across the world of telecommunications will be bidding on this spectrum, including cable providers, wireless carriers, and startups wanting to embrace the Internet of Things, to name just a few.
Millimeter-wave spectrum, commonly known as mmWave, is highly sought after for a number of reasons. It is an ideal type of spectrum to base a 5G deployment off of due to its extremely high data transfer rates, and its ability to stack and be aggregated into existing connections makes it both easy to deploy and augment; mmWave buyers will have no problem integrating the spectrum into their current LTE networks, then build a 5G deployment around it. mmWave spectrum can even be used as a backup for LTE networks in some markets while spectrum from existing LTE or other holdings is being refarmed and network equipment is being converted for commercial 5G. These same properties make it great for IoT usage, connected vehicles, enterprise intranets, and short-range, high-throughput wireless systems like wireless VR headsets.