I think it was a poor choice to raise a bunch of money by starting the sell spectrum to cell providers in the 90s instead of licensing it to them as had been done before
Bandwidth auctions are only selling off a LEASE of that spectrum in the first place.
so now a lot of power is concentrated into a few companies that own spectrum
Auctioning is a good way to allocate limited resources. The significant expense highly discourages carriers from buying anything they won't extensively use (leaving it open for smaller organizations) and have also encouraged the FCC to open up more spectrum to get in on some more of that big cash.
it's not necessarily in their interest to pursue certain RF research or new RF technology
It's money from the cellular carriers that has been paying for developments of 3G and 4G technologies, and is continuing with a surprisingly fast push to work on 5G.
And again, the huge expense of buying new spectrum in an auction is encouraging cellular carriers to "densify" their networks, instead of just expanding their bandwidth.
Imagine if TV stations owned their spectrum, we might never have been able to force a HD digital transition.
There's been no need for the government to force carriers to start shutting off their 2G networks and rolling out 4G. There's competition in the market, and tighter integration between sender and receiver. TV networks could never have hoped to force their audience to upgrade their all their TVs, but cell carriers can and regularly do.