T-Mobile tells the FCC that it needs more mid-band spectrum for 5G service in the states
The reason why T-Mobile wanted to merge with Sprint had to do with the latter's holdings of 2.5GHz mid-band spectrum. T-Mobile's plan for 5G, dubbed the layer cake approach, takes advantage of the individual characteristics for low-band, mid-band, and high-band spectrum. Low-band airwaves travel long distances making them perfect for the foundation of the cake. They can easily bypass structures. The one thing that they cannot do is deliver download data speeds much faster than 4G LTE. High-band spectrum can only travel short distances which is why they are appropriate for urban locations and cities. These signals provide fast download data speeds and do not penetrate structures that well.
T-Mobile says that it could use some more 2.5GHz mid-band spectrum
According to Fierce Wireless, when the FCC meets Wednesday to hold an open commission meeting, on the agenda is a Public Notice that would allow the public to comment on plans to put more mid-band spectrum up for auction. These airwaves were originally used for educational institutions approximately 30 years ago.In between low and high-band is mid-band spectrum. Thanks to the deal with Sprint, T-Mobile has more mid-band spectrum than the competition. Some analysts believe that this will help T-Mobile become the 5G speed leader in the U.S. And when it comes to 2.5GHz spectrum, you can never have too much.
We wouldn't say that T-Mobile is desperate to get its hands on more mid-band spectrum, but in an Ex Parte letter written by the carrier's Steve B. Sharkey, Vice President of Government Affairs for Technology and Engineering Policy, a specific phone call was mentioned. Sharkey had spoken on the phone with Erin Boone, the legal advisor to FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington. In his conversation, Sharkey said that he urged the FCC to "issue a Public Notice soliciting comments on procedures for conducting an auction of the 2496-2690 MHz (2.5GHz) band." Sharkey added that since it closed the merger with Sprint, T-Mobile has been "rapidly rolling out 2.5 GHz spectrum as part of its nationwide 5G network" and that "access to additional 2.5 GHz spectrum will help deliver 5G services to even more Americans."
Sharkey even passed along the format that he would prefer to see used for such an auction. Talking about the call he had with Ms. Boone, he wrote, "In particular, I explained that the Commission should propose conducting the 2.5 GHz auction using a simultaneous multiple-round ("SMR") format that will offer license-by-license bidding. An SMR auction provides the transparency necessary for bidders to make informed bidding decisions and respond to the multitude of factors that go into selecting particular blocks in a given market.And, as the Commission has observed, an SMR auction is more appropriate than a clock auction when blocks in a band are less uniform/generic within a market, as they are here. Further, an SMR auction promotes competitive bidding, including by smaller entities and new entrants, and can be conducted quickly through traditional auction management tools such as changes in bid increments and the implementation of switching constraints."
Not everyone is happy with the prospect of T-Mobile purchasing more mid-band spectrum. A firm called Select Spectrum, which describes itself as licensed spectrum brokers, believes that T-Mobile will outbid smaller carriers for the mid-band spectrum even though it doesn't have any plans to actually employ the airwaves. The strategy would be for T-Mobile to gain ownership of additional mid-band signals just to keep it away from the competition. As a result, Select Spectrum wants the FCC to hold the auction using a single round sealed bid system. With this method of bidding, "T-Mobile will not know in advance where they face competition and will be forced with a choice of bidding higher on a wide scale (good for the Treasury), or risking losing many licenses to smaller operators."
We might have more to report about the auction after Wednesday's meeting. Stay tuned!