DALLAS -- AT&T Inc.* is the winning bidder for spectrum licenses covering more than 98% of the U.S. population following the close of FCC Auction 102. The company won 24 GHz spectrum in 383 Partial Economic Areas (PEAs) for a nationwide average of 254 MHz. All of the licenses won were in the more valuable upper 500 MHz portion of the 24 GHz band, giving AT&T stronger nationwide coverage and additional spectrum depth and capacity in many top markets where demand is often greatest. In the top 10 markets alone, AT&T won nearly 286 MHz on average, including 300 MHz in 8 of those markets.
AT&T will use the spectrum to bolster its mobile 5G strategy. AT&T was the first U.S. wireless carrier to introduce mobile 5G service. The company's 5G service is currently available in parts of 19 cities – more than any other wireless carrier – with plans to reach parts of 29 cities by the end of 2019. In the first half of 2020, the company expects to have the best combination of mobile 5G, providing high speeds and low latency service over mmWave spectrum and nationwide 5G service over "sub-6" spectrum
"We're leading the nation in mobile 5G deployment and the large, contiguous block of spectrum we won in Auction 102 will be critical to maintaining that leadership," said Scott Mair, president of AT&T Operations. "We've already been recognized for having the nation's fastest1 and best2wireless network, and by further strengthening our spectrum position, we intend to build on our success. I'd like to congratulate and thank the FCC on the conclusion of another successful auction."
The licenses it won cover all top 50 PEAs and 99 of the top 100 PEAs. When added to the mmWave spectrum AT&T already holds in the 39 GHz band, AT&T's average spectrum depth in mmWave increased by two-thirds to more than 630 MHz nationwide.
The company spent about $980 million in the auction. This purchase of high-quality spectrum does not change AT&T's 2019 guidance for free cash flow, net asset monetization or debt leverage ratio. The company continues to expect $6-$8 billion in proceeds from asset monetization, net of spectrum purchases and other asset acquisitions. After reaching the 2.5x range for net-debt-to-adjusted-EBITDA, the company will also look at using a portion of its free cash flow after dividends to evaluate share buybacks and retire shares it issued in conjunction with the Time Warner acquisition.
1Based on analysis by Ookla® of Speedtest Intelligence® data average download speeds for Q1 2019.
2Based on GWS OneScore Sept.2018. Excludes crowdsourced studies.