Verizon is the big PAL spender, but Dish Network snaps up the most licenses

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Verizon spent the most on CBRS Priority Access Licenses — nearly $1.9 billion — but Dish Network landed the most licenses, at more than 5,400. Cable companies hauled home significant numbers of PALs, while US Cellular won more PALs than T-Mobile US and AT&T ended up buying no CBRS licenses at all.

The Federal Communications Commission today released the list of winning bidders in the PALs auction, which concluded last week after 76 rounds of bidding.

The auction raised more than $4.58 billion in gross bids, from a field of 271 qualified bidders. Of those, 228 bidders won a total of 20,625 licenses. That’s out of 22,631 available licenses or 7 licenses per U.S. county. Bidders are only allowed to hold a maximum of four PALs per county, and that spectrum can be aggregated. Each PAL consists of a 10 megahertz unpaired channel at 3.55-3.65 GHz. In addition to PALs, 80 megahertz of the 150 megahertz band is available for use under the General Authorized Access (GAA) tier of the CBRS spectrum-sharing framework.

According to the FCC, the five bidders who spent the most on PALs were:

Verizon, which spent $1.893 billion on 557 licenses in 157 counties. Verizon bought in some of the most expensive markets,  bidding on pricey licenses in places like Los Angeles county, CA where the cost of a single PAL was $52 million; but also in other small-to-mid-sized markets around the country, typically buying at least three PALs in the counties where it did buy. The operator has significant millimeter-wave holdings for 5G deployment but has needed to round that out with midband airwaves.

Dish Network, bidding as Wetterhorn Wireless, spent $912.9 million on 5,492 licenses in 3,128 counties. For context, licenses were available in 3,233 U.S. counties, meaning that Dish used the auction to build itself a nationwide footprint of priority access to the 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum.

Charter Communications, bidding as Spectrum Wireless Holdings, will pay $464.25 million for 210 PALs in 106 counties.

Comcast, bidding as XF Wireless Investment, bid $458.7 million for 830 licenses in 306 counties.

Cox Communications bid $212.8 million for 470 PALs in 173 counties.

The five bidders who won the most licenses were:

Dish Network: 5,492 PALs

SAL Spectrum (part of ATN investment group, which includes communications — Choice Wireless, Commnet and more– and renewable energy subsidiaries): 1,569 licenses in 590 counties for about $20.4 million

Nextlink Internet, a rural fixed wireless broadband provider, biddings as AMG Technology Investment Group: 1,072 licenses in 491 counties for $33.5 million

Windstream: 1,014 licenses in 296 counties for $38.5 million

Comcast/XF Wireless Investment: 830 licenses in 306 counties

US Cellular bought more PALs than T-Mobile US: US Cellular won 243 licenses in 80 counties for $13.5 million. T-Mobile US, meanwhile, spent about $5.6 million on eight PALs in six counties. T-Mo can rely on its broad 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings, acquired as part of the Sprint merger, for midband coverage.

Some of the non-telecom bidders did come out of the auction with licenses, including:

Chevron bid a little over $1 million to win 26 licenses in 21 counties.

Deere and Company committed nearly $546,000 for five PALs in five counties.

Starwood Holdings hospitality company came out of the auction with two PALs in one county, for which it will pay $10,800.

Texas A&M University won one PAL for $39,000.

University of Virginia Foundation won six licenses in two counties for a total of $118,200.

Virginia Tech won eight licenses in two counties for $1.1 million.

San Diego Gas and Electric Company won three licenses in two counties for nearly $21.3 million.

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