The Federal Communications Commission’s AWS-3 spectrum auction closed today with a record revenue of $44.9 billion.

U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) marveled at the amount of money brought in.

“This is great news.  I don’t think anyone imagined we’d raise this much money,” Sen. Nelson said in a statement.

He was hardly alone in his glowing praise for the successful auction.

“The AWS-3 auction is the highest-revenue generating auction in the 20 year history of FCC spectrum auctions, and with the last major auction six years ago, this reflects wireless companies’ demand for this finite resource to meet Americans’ growing mobile broadband usage,” CTIA CEO Meredith Attwell Baker said in a statement. “With nearly $45 billion in bids – and billions more in capex – this auction is yet another illustration of the significant economic impact that exclusive, licensed use spectrum provides taxpayers and the U.S. economy. We thank Congress, the Administration and the FCC for auctioning 65 MHz of spectrum that will greatly benefit U.S. consumers.”

Attwell Baker said the AWS-3 auction is an important step toward freeing up another 500 megahertz of spectrum by 2020, which she said will enable wireless companies will create at least 350,000 new jobs in America and more than $166 billion for the U.S. GDP.

The FCC also took the opportunity to toot its own horn a bit and thank other agencies and associations for their help in bringing the auction to market.

“Today we closed bidding Auction 97 – by far the highest-earning spectrum auction the United States has ever seen. But it was much more than that. This auction also marked a new era in spectrum policy, where a collaborative and unprecedented effort resulted in new commercial access to federal spectrum bands. A bipartisan group of leaders in Congress, federal agencies – especially NTIA and DoD – the White House, industry, and the team at the FCC all came together to help meet the Nation’s demand for wireless broadband,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn also chimed in, pointing out that estimates for auction revenue weren’t much higher than $18 billion going in and, by shattering those estimates, the AWS-3 auction demonstrated “demand for this spectrum was phenomenal.”

Gordon Smith, President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), congratulated the FCC and thanked US broadcasters for their work to share BAS spectrum with the Department of Defense, freeing up airwaves for the auction.

"We are proud of our hard work under incredibly tight timelines to develop a sharing framework with DOD so that we can now realize a fully funded nationwide, interoperable public safety network and make a meaningful dent in the federal deficit," Smith said in a statement.

Roger Sherman, chief of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, said that in addition to securing $7 billion to fund FirstNet, a nationwide network for first responders and emergency personnel, the AWS-3 auction also pulled in money for other activities. He noted $300 million for public safety communications research, $115 in grants for 911, E911, and NextGen 911 implementation, more than $20 billion for deficit reduction, and funding for relocating Federal systems.

With the AWS-3 auction in the books, now groups like the FCC, NAB and CTIA will turn much of their attention toward the 600 MHz incentive auctions, still scheduled to begin in early 2016.

But before that, the FCC will have a mountain of paperwork to deal with in the wake of the AWS-3 auction. Auction results should be made public in the next few days while it could take weeks to issue licenses. After licenses are issued, downlink spectrum will be available immediately and licensees will need to start coordinating transitions for government agencies currently using the 1755-1780 MHz and 1695-1710 MHz bands.