Bill allowing FCC to hand over more 2.5GHz spectrum to T-Mobile heads to the House

Bill allowing FCC to hand over more 2.5GHz spectrum to T-Mobile heads to the House
Over a year ago, T-Mobile added to its holdings of 2.5GHz mid-band spectrum by spending over $304 million during FCC Auction 108. T-Mobile already employs 2.5GHz spectrum for its Ultra Capacity 5G service and it was Sprint's hoard of these airwaves that led T-Mobile to acquire Sprint for $26 billion. It was a shrewd move by T-Mobile since AT&T and Verizon were building out their 5G networks starting with the fastest mmWave spectrum.

But since mmWave spectrum travels only short distances, T-Mobile took a different route. It wanted the 2.5GHz mid-band spectrum because, while it doesn't deliver the fast 1Gbps download data speeds that mmWave does, the mid-band airwaves travel longer distances. As a result, more T-Mobile customers could connect to a mid-band 5G signal that is up to 10 times faster than 4G than the number of AT&T and Verizon customers able to connect to mmWave.

Both AT&T and Verizon realized that mid-band was the way to go and together they spent over $68 billion to win C-band spectrum licenses in an FCC auction. T-Mobile continued to add more 2.5GHz airwaves in the form of 7,156 licenses it won during FCC Auction 108. But so far, T-Mobile has not been able to use all of these licenses because Congress had allowed the FCC's auction authority to expire preventing it from issuing the licenses to T-Mobile. The carrier did manage to obtain some of the licenses before  the authority expired.

In March, T-Mobile unsuccessfully filed for a special temporary authority (STA) that would allow it to use the licenses until Congress returned the FCC's auction authority to the regulatory agency. T-Mobile explained that it could help provide service to more rural areas of the country if it could start deploying the 2.5GHz spectrum it won at auction. 

Moving to the next plan, according to Fierce Wireless, this past Friday, the Senate unanimously passed the 5G Spectrum Authority Licensing Enforcement (SALE) Act created by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). The SALE Act would require that the FCC release the 2.5GHz spectrum licenses that were purchased in Auction 108. With the Senate on board, the bill moves to the House.
Senator Kennedy said, "My 5G SALE Act provides Americans with access to broadband by giving the FCC the authority to finish transferring previously auctioned spectrum to companies that offer 5G coverage. The House should move quickly to send this bill to the president’s desk." If the president signs the bill, the FCC will turn over the licenses to T-Mobile and other winning bidders.

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