AT&T Could Cover 98% of US Pop. With FiberTower '5G' Spectrum

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

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sandlessman 4/5/2017 | 12:07:18 AM
Re: Elephant in the room. Dan Jones, have you read though the Petitions to Deny?  Some make very valid points, as Fugitive says.  I would suggest you read though them too.


Fugitive6129 4/2/2017 | 2:17:42 PM
Re: Elephant in the room. Whether or not the FCC relents the Northern District of Texas bankruptcy proceeding is being reopened complicating matters. Former shareholders and debtors look for newly priced asset funds to come their way. FCC would be violating its own rules.

Because most of FiberTower's licenses were not timely constructed, they terminated by operation of Section 101.527(d) of the rules, and the spectrum associated with those licenses no longer is held by FiberTower. Consequently, transfer of those licenses would contravene the Commission's own rules and policies. Moreover, the Commission has determined that if, as here, a transaction violates Commission rules, and frustrates or undermines policies and enforcement of the Act, it does not satisfy the public interest, convenience, and necessity standard for approving a transfer of control.
Austin Idol 3/31/2017 | 11:50:09 AM
Re: Elephant in the room. True but either the FCC relents and allows Fibertower and ATT to use the licenses or they sit on the shelf until 2020 when maybe the courts will make a decision. The FCC, United States, and 5G cannot wait that long so the FCC will relent. The FCC of today with Pai is totally different than that of when it was under Obama and Wheeler.
Fugitive6129 3/31/2017 | 2:46:40 AM
Elephant in the room.

93% of Fibertower licenses are in the FCCs pocket.

Because most of FiberTower's 24 GHz and 39 GHz licenses were not timely constructed, they terminated by operation of Section 101.527(d) of the rules, and the spectrum associated with those licenses no longer is held by FiberTower. Filling for public notice and multiple petitions to deny filled. Worthy of its own article. http://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/ApplicationSearch/applAdmin.jsp?applID=10148372#attachments

DanJones 3/23/2017 | 9:55:31 PM
Re: "Journalism" While it's cool of Dennis to stand up for me, I don't care, I totally appreciate people hassling me about stories. For the record, the interesting thing here -- I think -- is how AT&T will use this spectrum. But I've been out at investor days this week so I haven't had much time to dig into out.
Austin Idol 3/23/2017 | 5:24:12 PM
Re: "Journalism" Accept my apologies Dan. I was too hard on you. I should have just informed you of what I knew and left it at that. I just get tired of all these articles and posts that don't take the extra steps. You were simple stating something but I would have liked to have seen a deeper dive and more interpretation.  I guess that is the world we live in now.
DanJones 3/23/2017 | 3:30:23 PM
Re: "Journalism" What exactly is cryptic about the headline, out of interest?
Austin Idol 3/23/2017 | 12:38:34 PM
Re: "Journalism" Facts are facts. We would all be better off with factual articles rather than misleading and cryptic headlines and articles.
mendyk 3/23/2017 | 12:01:18 PM
Re: "Journalism" Are you ignoring your insulting tone, or do you not see it? You seem to be new to this message board, so maybe you're not used to the way our community communicates.
Austin Idol 3/23/2017 | 11:40:47 AM
Re: "Journalism" Correct Mendy. When you have well informed readers contributing key missing pieces to the article then it is in the best interest of the author to be thankful and not so condescending. 
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