T-Mobile confirms speedy 600 MHz rollout for 2017, covering 1 million+ square miles

T-Mobile has filed a plan with the FCC to cover 1+ million square miles with 600 MHz service by the end of the year. (T-Mobile USA)

T-Mobile has filed a fairly aggressive plan with the FCC to deploy its freshly awarded 600 MHz spectrum for mobile broadband, with a goal to cover 1 million-plus square miles of the country with service by the end of the year.

The No. 3 U.S mobile carrier laid out its plans in an ex parte filing with the FCC. T-Mobile was the big winner in the commission’s April incentive auction of broadcast spectrum, 84 MHz of which has been freed up by the transition from analog to digital TV; the carrier spent $8 billion to snag holdings that are particularly concentrated in hundreds of thousands of square miles of rural and remote portions of the country, where residents may have never had wireless broadband connections, or where competition is limited. As such, much of the deployment will add new ink to the No. 3 mobile carrier’s coverage map, in places like Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming.

In T-Mobile's filing, it offered a look at its 600 MHz winnings from the auction:

Attribution/Copyright: T-Mobile

The company said in June that it has already started laying the groundwork for 600 MHz deployments, but the availability of the spectrum is dependent upon the speed of the broadcast transition. Broadcasters that participated in the auction are transitioning their operations to a different frequency band or channel share. Those that didn’t participate will have their spectrum “repacked” into other bands to protect their signals from neighboring broadband interference (to ensure uninterrupted TV service). All of this means the FCC faces a time-consuming process of reauthorization and relicensing TV stations, for which it has allotted 39 months.

Broadcasters have their own share of obligations in the transition, too, and face a potential holdup given that their initial cost estimates for the move exceed the amount funded by Congress by approximately $389 million. In this week’s filing, T-Mobile said that it’s working with broadcasters to keep the 600 MHz relocation on schedule, and that it has agreed to invest in broadcast equipment manufacturing capacity, installation resources, help for low-power TV stations and support for TV translator licenses to make it happen.

“Quickly approving cost estimates and rapidly dispersing the money necessary to help fund broadcast relocation will complement the wireless operators’ massive investments in deploying the 600 MHz spectrum as quickly as possible,” the carrier noted in the filing.

T-Mobile recently said that it’s prepared to fast-track the 600 MHz deployment on its end, gaining 3GPP approval on specifications in May and working with infrastructure and device vendors to have compatible gear.