T-Mobile US wants to get a jump on new 2.5 GHz use

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T-Mo asked to be able to use new 2.5 GHz licenses for 5G while the FCC does its post-auction review

T-Mobile US has asked the Federal Communications Commission to allow the carrier to immediately use of hundreds of 2.5 GHz licenses across the U.S. to add more 5G bandwidth to its existing 2.5 GHz deployments, while the agency does its final review before officially granting the carrier those licenses.

The approximately 2,000 licenses across 45 states are part of the more than 7,000 new licenses that T-Mo got for a song (relatively speaking) in the recently wrapped 2.5 GHz auction. Now the carrier wants to jump on using that new spectrum as quickly as possible, given that it is already operating 5G nationwide in that band.

T-Mo made the unusual request for Special Temporary Authority (STA) to use the spectrum during the post-auction period when the FCC is reviewing long-form applications but has not yet formally granted the licenses to winning bidders. This period can last several months; T-Mo has asked for the use of the spectrum for up to 60 days.

“The unique circumstances of the 2.5 GHz white space auction present an opportunity to put a significant amount of the spectrum to immediate use for 5G and rapidly enhance mobile broadband services that benefit the public without risking interference or undermining the Commission’s auction and licensing process,” the carrier argued in its filing. It is asking for permission to use the spectrum only in places in which it already has deployed 5G at 2.5 GHz in its existing holdings, where it says it can “launch operations
without delay and without deploying new infrastructure.”

“The 2.5 GHz spectrum T-Mobile won in Auction 108 is interspersed with 2.5 GHz spectrum T-Mobile has already deployed for 5G mobile broadband. The intermixture of newly won and operational spectrum provides the Commission with a unique opportunity to significantly increase 5G mobile broadband capacity for consumers by allowing T-Mobile to simply expand the channel bandwidths that its previously deployed 5G equipment already supports,” the carrier said.

Although the requested STA covers licenses in 45 states, many of the requested licenses are in Southern states including Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky, as well as Florida and South Carolina—where the carrier notes that, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, there is “likely to [be] increased demand for mobile connectivity as residents relocate to areas outside of the hurricane’s path and emergency personnel charge into affected areas and work to restore basic services. Activating idle 2.5 GHz spectrum on already deployed infrastructure will permit T-Mobile to rapidly accommodate ongoing demand surges and demand displacement.”

Of the 8,017 licenses available in Auction 108, 98% of them sold and the vast majority of those (7,156, to be exact) were won by T-Mobile US at a cost of about $304 million, to add to its deep existing holdings and leases in the band.