The FCC auction for a prime band of 5G wireless spectrum has attracted $21.8 billion in bids, underscoring the importance of the frequency blocks that range from 3.5GHz to 3.55GHz.\nOf the 4,060 blocks available for discrete geographic areas throughout the country, all but 19 sold during the 29-day auction, according to the FCC.\n\nCarriers have been hungrily buying up this mid-range spectrum that some call the Goldilocks Zone because its transmissions propagate over a significant distance and also support high data rates. Earlier this year an auction for blocks of spectrum in the 3.7GHz (C-band) range raised more than $81 billion.\u00a0\nThe list of which service provider bought which blocks won\u2019t be released until January, but industry experts speculate on the likely winners and losers.\nAT&T may have been the biggest spender in an attempt to secure mid-range spectrum that becomes available in the spring of 2022, well ahead of the 2023 date when the mid-range spectrum it has already licensed becomes open for use. That earlier date would put it on better footing to roll out 5G services vs. its rival Verizon, whose previously licensed spectrum is set to become available much earlier. \u201cYou could argue that there was a much better incentive for AT&T to spend big in [the auction],\u201d said Jason Leigh, a research manager at IDC.\nThere appeared to be some perhaps-related gamesmanship during the proceedings. One large bidder\u2014possibly Verizon\u2014is thought to have abruptly ceased bidding partway through the auction. That might have nullified the results by making it fail to take in the minimum revenue the auction had to take in, meaning no spectrum for anyone, according to Jason Leigh, a research manager at IDC. If that were the case, it would likely have made the spectrum available even later than next spring.\u00a0\nRegardless of their precise identities, the biggest spenders at the auction are likely to be large, established wireless service providers, Leigh said. The geographic areas used do divide up the licenses\u2014known as partial economic areas (PEA)\u2014are larger than the alternative\u2014counties\u2014which works against smaller regional wireless providers.\n\u201cIf you\u2019re a small, utility-based wireless company or wireless ISP, you\u2019re covering a really small footprint, often even less than a county size,\u201d Leigh said. This means that it\u2019s harder for those smaller players to bid efficiently, since they\u2019d have to buy a license for an entire PEA to get the coverage they want, potentially bringing them into competition with vastly better-funded national players.