Licenses for premium wireless bandwidth sought by service providers to build out high-performance 5G networks is being auctioned off by the Federal Communications Commission, potentially grossing up to $50 billion and enabling features that enterprises desire most.\n\n5G resources\n\nWhat is 5G? Fast wireless technology for enterprises and phones\nHow 5G frequency affects range and speed\nPrivate 5G can solve some problems that Wi-Fi can\u2019t\nPrivate 5G keeps Whirlpool driverless vehicles rolling\n5G can make for cost-effective private backhaul\nCBRS can bring private 5G to enterprises\n\n\nThe spectrum on the block is a piece of what\u2019s known as the C-band, specifically the 280MHz-wide swath of it from 3.7GHz to 3.98GHz. It provides wider channels that support faster connections and lower latency than other ranges available to carriers, analysts say.\n\u201cThe C-band auction is the Louisiana Purchase opportunity for the wireless operators, roughly doubling their spectrum,\u201d said Morgan Kurk, executive vice president and chief technology officer at CommScope. \u201cThe 100MHz of continuous mid-band spectrum each operator will likely buy will be the most efficient, cost effective, and capacity intense in history.\u201d\nThe FCC\u2019s Auction 107 opened with a bang on Tuesday, immediately drawing nearly $2 billion in bids, and will see the spectrum licensed in 20MHz sub-blocks, with each of them covering one of 5,684 partial economic areas nationwide. PEAs are geographic subdivisions of federally designated economic areas, defined as municipal areas that serve as centers of economic activity.\nThe bidding stays open so long there are any PEAs left that have more than one party interested. Licenses in heavily populated urban centers should command the most interest and the highest prices, rural licenses the least.\nThe importance of the auction to the development of 5G is difficult to overemphasize. Lower frequencies are the more traditional carrier spectrum, since they have excellent propagation characteristics and allow carriers to cover wide areas with a single base station, but that spectrum is heavily crowded, with few wide channels available.\nHigher, millimeter-wave frequencies offer enormous channels and potentially blazing-fast connection speeds, but they also propagate terribly. Those signals generally won\u2019t penetrate doors and windows, and the coverage for a single access point is mostly limited to devices in the same room.\nThe C-band spectrum represents a happy medium that the FCC says, \u201cwill be critical mid-band spectrum for 5G services,\u201d but freeing it up hasn\u2019t been easy. To do so the FCC has had to partially displace numerous incumbent licensees including scientific, commercial and government stakeholders.\nForrester vice president and research director Glenn O\u2019Donnell said that careful stewardship of those services is required. \u201cThe voracious appetite for 5G bandwidth is a real threat to other radio services across all spectrum, one that could prove dangerous to the public if mismanaged,\u201d he said. \u201cThese other services matter.\u201d\nTo advance 5G, the commission has been aggressively auctioning off mid-band spectrum, including licenses for around 70MHz of the 3.5GHz band in this summer\u2019s Citizens Broadband Radio Service auction, which commanded more than $4.5 billion.\nMuch more spending is anticipated in the current auction. Experts expect the final tally to reach anywhere from the mid-$20 billion range to over $50 billion. This could make the auction the highest grossing in the FCC\u2019s history, outpacing $45 billion reaped in a 2015 auction of advanced wireless services spectrum.