You may already know that internet companies interact with one another, oftentimes racing to expand into new territories and establish their networks in competitive areas. But perhaps you didn’t know that these same entities must legally reserve wireless airwave space through spectrum auctions. These are the very systems that help make wireless communication and connection possible—from streaming online content to simply receiving a text on your cell phone.
Last year, we participated in a spectrum auction for the CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) band, defined as the frequencies between 3,550 and 3,700 MHz. Uniquely, this band of spectrum is shared, meaning that users with varying levels of priority were able to bid on it. The auction lasted from July 23rd through August 25th 2020, and lasted 76 rounds in total; so how does it work?
Traditionally, spectrum has been sold almost exclusively to very large corporations. However this auction was the first to allow spectrum to be sold in smaller geographic areas, enabling smaller organizations to bid. Meaning, CBRS is the first shared access spectrum with priority levels, which gave us a unique opportunity to participate. The bidding structure worked much like an in-person auction, except it was facilitated online by submitting a bid in each round.
We purchased PALs (Priority Access License), an investment which has allowed us to offer higher speeds to more households, ensure continued operation, and expand and fortify our existing network as a whole.
Just about anything you can think of is government-regulated or owned, including our airwaves. Spectrum ownership is varied and widespread–but it is possible to visualize this ownership on a spectrum map. In fact, most of this data is public and you can view a regularly updated map here, or take a look at auction results here.
Tech inspires us because it is constantly evolving and pushing boundaries to better serve more people. The FCC is reportedly interested in hosting additional spectrum auctions in the future, to foster growth in the broadband space, as well as expand opportunities for wireless connectivity. As the telecommunications industry continues to broaden, becoming more and more competitive and regionally diverse with time, we are excited for our continued development in the broadband space—for our local region and beyond.