AT&T Easily Outspends Rivals In FCC's $45 Billion Wireless Spectrum Auction

In what's been described as "by far the highest-earning spectrum auction the United States has ever seen" by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler, AT&T led the way by spending a whopping $18.2 billion on wireless licenses. Combined with its acquisition of DirecTV last year, some are wondering if AT&T is being a bit careless.

AT&T spent nearly $49 billion last year buying DirecTV, the largest satellite TV provider in the U.S. with 20 million customers. Along with a pair of smaller acquisitions and the wireless spectrum licenses it just bought, AT&T will see $70 billion go out the door in a year's time.

AT&T Van

"This spectrum investment will be critical to AT&T staying ahead of customer demand and facilitate the next generation of mobile video entertainment," John Stankey, AT&T’s chief strategy officer, said in a statement.

The FCC's auction included Advanced Wireless Service licenses in the 1695-1710MHz, 1755-1780MHz, and 2155-2180MHz bands, for a total of 65MHz. After AT&T, Verizon was the next biggest spender among telecoms with winning bids coming to $10.4 billion, followed by T-Mobile at $1.8 billion. Sprint didn't take part in the auction because it lacks the complimentary AWS spectrum that the other carriers have.

Satellite TV provider Dish Network also emerged as a major player. Including partnerships, Dish's investments into wireless spectrum came to $13.3 billion.