AT&T could get access to potential 5G spectrum that could cover nearly all of the US population through its recently revealed plans to buy FiberTower.
AT&T Mobility LLC said in February that it would buy mobile backhaul provider FiberTower Corp. for an undisclosed sum. FiberTower holds interests in a total of 738 24GHz and 39GHz licenses according to theFederal Communications Commission (FCC) . The licenses include potential areas of coverage in over 30 cities in the US. (See AT&T Buys FiberTower for 5G Spectrum.)
AT&T is asking that the licenses be transferred to its Mobility arm. The FCC has this to say in a public notice on the licenses:
- Our preliminary review of the Applicants' spectrum aggregation chart indicates that AT&T would acquire from FiberTower, on a population-weighted basis, control of 7.2 megahertz to 796.8 megahertz of 39 GHz spectrum in 3,165 counties in all or parts of 727 Cellular Market Areas (CMAs) covering approximately 312 million people, or 99.8 percent of the US population, including Puerto Rico. Post-transaction, AT&T would hold a maximum of 796.8 megahertz of 39 GHz spectrum. In no county would AT&T trigger the spectrum threshold of 1250 megahertz established in the Spectrum Frontiers R&O.
In addition, as a result of the proposed transaction, AT&T would acquire from FiberTower control of 1 megahertz to 400 megahertz of 24 GHz spectrum in 365 counties in all or parts of 91 CMAs covering approximately 160 million people or approximately 51% of the U.S. population, including Puerto Rico.
What the notice doesn't lay out is where FiberTower has licenses that cover large amounts of spectrum and where the licenses only cover small channels. The minimum expected channel size for deploying 5G service -- at present -- is 100MHz (10-40MHz is typical for 4G). So this particular detail will become more crucial in the future.
Nonetheless, it should be no surprise that AT&T started 39GHz 5G tests soon after it made the FiberTower deal. (See AT&T Lab Tests DirecTV Now Over 5G.)
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading