AT&T's FiberTower Gives Up Many '5G' Spectrum Licenses

AT&T will also pay $27 million to resolve the FCC's dispute with FiberTower.

Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

January 30, 2018

2 Min Read
AT&T's FiberTower Gives Up Many '5G' Spectrum Licenses

FiberTower, which is being acquired by by AT&T, has agreed to give up many of the high-band millimeter wave licenses that AT&T could have used for 5G in the future, as part of the resolution of a long-running dispute between FiberTower and the FCC.

In fact, FiberTower Corp. has agreed to give up all of its 24GHz licenses and a portion of its 39GHz licenses. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) also will pay the US Treasury $27 million to settle the FiberTower dispute.

The crux of the dispute was the Bureau's assertion that "FiberTower had not shown that it had provided substantial service for 689 licenses." That's 94 licenses in the 24GHz band and 595 licenses in the 39GHz band, according to FCC documents. The agency refused FiberTower's requests for extended service buildout deadlines in December 2012 and a request for a review in 2013 and 2014.

The FCC -- as of January 26 -- has granted a buildout extension waiver to "FiberTower" -- a.k.a. AT&T -- for around 400 of the 39GHz licenses. The new deadline to use those licenses by is June 1, 2024. (See AT&T Buys FiberTower for 5G Spectrum.)

"With the return of all of FiberTower's 24 GHz licenses and the settlement of litigation, the 24 GHz band will be virtually clear of licenses and can be made available for initial licensing, enabling rapid deployment of 5G and next generation wireless services nationwide," the FCC said in a docket on the case. The deal will help with the "rebranding" of the 39GHz band too, the agency said. (See FCC Wants to Open More High-Band Spectrum for 5G.)

Millimeter wave bands are seen by the FCC as one of the cornerstones of the future 1Gbit/s 5G wireless service in the US. Currently, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has by far the widest access to mmWave licenses thanks to its XO buyout and planned acquisition of Straight Path for $3.1 billion. (See Verizon Buys Straight Path for $3.1B, Beating AT&T to 5G Spectrum.)

This latest FiberTower news will throw up more questions on what AT&T will use for 5G spectrum. It has announced plans to launch mobile 5G in "late 2018" in a dozen markets in the US. (See AT&T's Mobile 5G Plan Leaves as Many Questions as Answers.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Dan Jones

Mobile Editor

Dan is to hats what Will.I.Am is to ridiculous eyewear. Fedora, trilby, tam-o-shanter -- all have graced the Jones pate during his career as the go-to purveyor of mobile essentials.

But hey, Dan is so much more than 4G maps and state-of-the-art headgear. Before joining the Light Reading team in 2002 he was an award-winning cult hit on Broadway (with four 'Toni' awards, two 'Emma' gongs and a 'Brian' to his name) with his one-man show, "Dan Sings the Show Tunes."

His perfectly crafted blogs, falling under the "Jonestown" banner, have been compared to the works of Chekhov. But only by Dan.

He lives in Brooklyn with cats.

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