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.

Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on
Light Reading.

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

kq4ym 7/16/2017 | 11:23:24 AM
Re: T-Mobile learning the Trump shuffle! It will certainly be an interesting few years as petitions to the FCC slide in to ask for modifications and changes to the rules. It should be a technical consultant and attorney bonanza just filing the paperwork for the changes as technology and possibilities move forward in higher frequency use.
DanJones 7/3/2017 | 1:01:07 PM
Re: T-Mobile learning the Trump shuffle! AFAIK AT&T has been asking for rule changes too, not 5G per see, but more standard licenses.
Gabriel Brown 7/3/2017 | 12:29:36 PM
Re: T-Mobile learning the Trump shuffle! I can see T Mobile's argument. From a licensed MNO point of view, you need a wide channel bandwidth for 5G. But there is so much momentum behind CBRS and the current proposed band plan that it will take something big to shift direction now. One MNO alone won't cut it.

There's an effort underway to get 3.7 to 4.2 re-allocated from satellite only to shared use satellite and fixed wireless, and then, maybe, mobile later. C-Band is pretty underutilized, so that seems fairly promising, but it will take a while.
DanJones 6/30/2017 | 4:07:48 PM
Re: T-Mobile learning the Trump shuffle! T-Mobile was stung by the military for its 3G spectrum, gluttons for punishment maybe?
TV Monitor 6/30/2017 | 3:53:06 PM
Re: T-Mobile learning the Trump shuffle! This isn't going to happen because of legacy users(aka the US military) who has the priority.

Additionally, there isn't a lot of bandwidth available in the 3.5 Ghz band even if this proposal went through.

Chinese intends to allocate 200 Mhz per network in the 3.4 Ghz+ band to enable Chinese low-band 5G.

Europeans 3.5 Ghz 5G may allowcate 100 Mhz or less per network.

Even if the T-Mobile proposal is accepted, there is a total of 140 Mhz available for three networks, or 43 Mhz per network. This isn't enough to do the 5G as promised, assuming Google and others don't mount a challenge to T-Mobile's proposal.

So there is no point in arguing for 3.5 Ghz 5G in the US, the spectrum bandwidth simply isn't there. The US is a 28 Ghz 5G territory. T-Mobile would have to adopt a technology different from its European parent DT, but that's the cost of doing business in the US.

If T-Mobile doesn't like 28 Ghz, then taking over Sprint and its 2.5 Ghz spectrum holding is another option.
DanJones 6/30/2017 | 1:54:08 PM
T-Mobile learning the Trump shuffle! I bet that's the best way to get the admin's attention right? Suggest they're leaving billions of dollars on table. The irony being that if the 600MHz auction had come close to some of the original predictions of it's value, T-Mobile wouldn't have even been to afford the nationwide footprint they did in the end.
Sign In