T-Mobile dominates 2.5 GHz spectrum auction, closing network gap across US

Illustration of a map of the United States with crosshairs representing broadband networks.

Getty Images | Andrey Denischuk

T-Mobile won the majority of spectrum licenses in the latest Federal Communications Commission auction, helping to close a rural network gap that has sparked comparisons to Swiss cheese. T-Mobile’s winning bid totaled $304.3 million, and he won 7,156 of his 7,872 licenses sold, the FCC announced yesterday.

T-Mobile’s licenses are spread across 2,724 counties (out of a total of 3,143 in the United States). The second highest bidder on a dollar basis was PTI Pacifica, where he spent $17.7 million on nine licenses in five counties. The FCC said, “Since most of the available spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band is in rural areas, this auction will provide significant spectrum resources to support wireless services in rural areas.”

The auction offered up to three blocks of spectrum, totaling 117.5 MHz in each county. In terms of number of licenses won, the North American Catholic Educational Programming Fund came second. The winning bid totaled $7.8 million, covering 107 licenses in 84 counties.

There were 63 successful bidders overall, and the auction raised $427.8 million. Discounts on licensing costs were applied to small businesses and his providers of local services. The 2.5 GHz spectrum was originally reserved for educational institutions but was diverted for commercial services.

T-Mobile network is already big on 2.5 GHz

Mid-band spectrum, such as 2.5 GHz, is good for increasing capacity and speed over relatively large areas. The low band spectrum is great for covering long distances and penetrating obstacles, but more spectrum is available in the mid and high bands. Yes, but the coverage area is minimal.

T-Mobile is already making heavy use of the 2.5 GHz spectrum with its 5G network. AT&T and Verizon use mid-band spectrum ranging from 3.7 GHz to 3.98 GHz. This has taken longer to deploy than planned because airlines have not yet retrofitted or replaced all of the altimeters on older planes that are unable to filter outside transmissions. assigned frequency.

The new 2.5 GHz license is a “flexible geographic overlay license.” This means there are restrictions on their use to protect the carriers already operating in that spectrum. “With an overlay license, licensee obtains the rights to a geographic area license that is “overlaid” on top of an existing current license. As with a regular flexible use license, an overlay licensee may operate anywhere within its geographic area provided it protects the licensed area. number of current licensees,” he explains the FCC.

But that’s no problem for T-Mobile. As FierceWireless wrote in March, after the FCC set auction rules, the auction was “for a ‘blank’ in his 2.5 GHz band where no one owns the spectrum. T-Mobile has a particular interest in Auction 108. Across the United States he is one of the 2.5 GHz spectrum and wants to fill that gap in coverage. ”

T-Mobile Fixes “Swiss Cheese” Network Issues

FierceWireless explained that the 2.5 GHz license was first distributed in the 1980s to educational institutions within a “35-mile radius circle” that “left an odd shaped void where no one owned the spectrum.” T-Mobile already had leases with schools across the country to use the license.

New Street Research policy analyst Blair Levin wrote at the time: .

Prior to the auction, AT&T and Verizon requested detailed information about the lease agreement to help decide whether to bid. The FCC said, “The proponent’s adoption of the expanded disclosure requirements is beyond the scope of existing spectrum leasing rules and the Commission’s previous decisions supporting those disclosure requirements.” I refused.

AT&T did not purchase the license at auction. Verizon, listed under the name “Cellco Partnership” in the auction results, won 12 licenses in nine counties for $1.5 million.

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