Four countries reveal five ways to sell the C-Band
Aug 04, 2021 by Toby Youell


Bands3.3 - 3.8 GHz (2021), 3.7 - 4.2 GHz (2021)
LocationBrazil, Canada, France, US
Tags3.3 - 3.8 GHz, 3.7 - 4.2 GHz, 5G, Brazil, C-band, Canada, France, United States

The C-Band, comprising frequencies around 3.5 GHz, are widely considered crucial for 5G networks. Canada’s nationwide operators, only able to bid on a limited portion of the 3450 – 3650 MHz, competed aggressively this Summer and ended up paying an average of $2.61/MHz/POP, a new record for the band.

The regulator, ISED, has long pinned its hopes on the country’s regional operators to drive competition in the market. ISED established set-asides which allowed the operators to buy licences for only $0.75/MHz/POP.

But auctions with set-asides are not the only way to make spectrum available for 5G. Our newly-updated country profiles for the Brazil, Canada, France, and the USA, reveal distinct approaches.

  • Canada 3450 – 3650 MHz: An auction with regional incumbents and significant set-asides.
  • USA 3550 – 3700 MHz: Low-power shared access coordinated through Spectrum Access Systems. Priority Access Licenses for the band sold for $0.22/MHz/POP in August 2020.
  • USA 3700 – 3980 MHz: An auction with generous payments to encourage incumbents to vacate the band quickly. Mobile licences sold for $0.94/MHz/POP in January 2021. In absolute terms, this was the most expensive auction ever, raising $81 billion for the US Treasury.
  • France 3400 – 3800 MHz: A hybrid approach where each operator is assigned 50 MHz in exchange for coverage commitments, and then competed over the remaining spectrum. The auction raised $0.15/MHz/POP in October 2020.
  • Brazil 3300 – 3700 MHz: Operators principally compete on how much they will spend on their mobile networks. This auction is expected to take place in the next few months.

These profiles are available as part of PolicyTracker‘s Spectrum Research Service.


  • Ute Zimmermann says:

    Do you have more information about the auction design in Brazil in ENglish?

  • Toby Youell says:

    Thank you for the comment. The description for Brazil is based on the article here and the presentation from Anatel Chairman Leonardo Euler de Morais at the DSA Global Summit. His slide-deck is available here. The distinctive aspect of the auction is that upfront bids can be converted to investment commitments.