T-Mobile Calls on FCC to Open 3.5GHz for 5G
T-Mobile's CTO wants the rules changed on the future 3.5GHz shared spectrum auction to create a dedicated 5G mid-band for mobile operators.
"T-Mobile has asked the FCC to re-examine its rules for the 3.5GHz band," writes T-Mobile's CTO Neville Ray, in a blog post on spectrum issues. "The 3550-3700 MHz spectrum is ideal to meet the mid-band needs for 5G networks."
T-Mobile US Inc. has already said it plans to deploy 5G on low-band 600MHz beginning in 2019, with high-band millimeter wave (mmWave) in the future. Ray argues that combining 3.5GHz with bands above and below will create 1100MHz of mid-band spectrum "with better coverage characteristics than high-band spectrum, meaning that it can help deliver the promise of 5G to rural areas." (See T-Mobile on 5G: Starting With 600MHz, Looking at mmWave Future.)
The CTO argues that 3.5GHz is already expected to be a 5G band in parts of Asia and Europe. SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM), for instance, announced this week that it is testing 3.5GHz in South Korea. (See SKT & Samsung Testing Mid-Band 5G.)
Following on from the recent "Tech Week" at the White House, the CTO suggests that changing the 3.5GHz rules will help boost the government's coffers too. "Over time, we would be passing up the opportunity to auction potentially 1100 megahertz of mid-band spectrum, which will certainly generate tens of billions of dollars in auction proceeds," the CTO writes.
There is no date set for the 3.5GHz shared spectrum auction yet but it is expected to be the next major auction on the docket. It's been no secret that major mobile carriers want the rules changed on the anticipated 3.5GHz (CBRS) shared spectrum auction.
As the rules stand at the moment, the FCC would auction off 70MHz of 3.5GHz licenses for three years at a time (or up to six years when the licenses are initially bought). 80MHz of the spectrum would be left for open general access usage.
The licenses, meanwhile, would be based on the census tracts, so that a local WISP or an enterprise, for instance, could buy a license that covers a very localized coverage area, like an office campus, and create their own network.
These rules were supposed to deliver a different kind of auction -- more akin to eBay than the typical multi-billion dollar affair -- with many different kinds of potential players getting involved. For instance, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) has been testing 3.5GHz applications.
It's been an open secret that the major mobile carriers would prefer the more standard auction of massive tranches of spectrum with licenses that wouldn't be up for auction every few years. Under the current rules, T-Mobile's Ray suggests 3.5GHz will end up being an "orphan band."
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading