What the CBRS Spectrum Auction Results Mean for Rural Telecom

September 2020 - Jeff Johnston

 

The FCC recently concluded its CBRS spectrum auction and as expected, there was a wide range of winning bidders. The 228 bidders included wireless operators, but also universities, oil and gas companies, and manufacturers, to name a few. Verizon, Dish Networks and the tier one cable operators were the most active bidders, spending over $3.9 billion.

In rural America, 75 organizations walked away with licenses on the CBRS band. The CBRS auction is an important step toward helping to bridge the digital divide. We think these licenses will enable rural organizations to provide carrier-grade fixed wireless networks in high costs areas, representing a significant upgrade over legacy Wi-Fi based WISP networks.

The shared nature of the CBRS band and the bidding results foreshadow a market that includes new business models and market players. For example, John Deere purchased five licenses for over $500,000.

We could see Deere offer a fixed wireless service by building networks in underserved and unserved areas. This would help increase its value proposition and support the investments Deere has made in precision agriculture. And it could ultimately help the company sell more agriculture equipment.

Overall, we think the CBRS auction results bode well for rural America.

We see rural fixed broadband providers adopting a heterogeneous network strategy by utilizing both fixed and wireless assets. This will enable operators to expand their broadband footprints more easily with reliable, high speed data connections.