Verizon and AT&T were announced by the FCC the winners of an $81 billion auction for the license to use important 5G airwaves. The high amounts spent by the telcos reflect the importance of securing licensing for the airwaves.

In fact, Verizon, through its Cellco Partnership subsidiary, bid nearly $45.5 billion on the airwaves. AT&T, through AT&T Spectrum Frontiers, bid $23.4 billion. The third-largest U.S. carrier, T-Mobile, bid the third-largest amount of money, $9.3 billion.

“These record-breaking results highlight the demand and critical need for more licensed mid-band spectrum and demonstrate the importance of developing a robust spectrum auction pipeline,” said CTIA CEO Meredith Baker in a statement. CTIA is a trade group that represents the wireless industry. 

The spectrum offered in this auction is the 280 megahertz – a midband spectrum – which is well suited for 5G networks and allows the transmission of huge amounts of data with a wavelength that can travel long distances.

The 280 MHz of spectrum was split into smaller 20 MHz blocks and further divided into 406 geographic regions. Altogether, there were 5,684 licenses up for grabs. In total, the three biggest U.S. carriers won 90% of the licenses up for auction.