T-Mobile: Extending 600 MHz repacking schedule 'would impose grave harm on consumers'

T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) once again urged the FCC to stick with its 39-month repacking timeframe following the incentive auction of 600 MHz spectrum, saying any delay "would impose grave harm on consumers."

In a 29-page filing addressing several points, the No. 3 U.S. mobile carrier took issue with claims that the proposed schedule simply doesn't provide enough time for broadcasters to move to other channels, freeing up the airwaves they previously owned for mobile use. T-Mobile has said in recent weeks that it plans to use some of that spectrum as early as next year and will be able to offer handsets that support the airwaves as well.

"T-Mobile and others have exhaustively documented how the broadcasting ecosystem can meet the demands of the broadcast-relocation process within the 39-month timeframe the FCC has adopted for clearing the 600 MHz band. This documentation includes hard numbers regarding resource availability and is grounded in fact, not hypothetical guesstimates," T-Mobile wrote. "Any delay in the transition process would impose grave harm on wireless broadband consumers. Every year that wireless carriers cannot access the spectrum they acquire at auction represents a 'lost year' of unrealized net wireless broadband revenue and consumer surplus."

The FCC began bidding earlier this week to buy back broadcasters' airwaves in a "reverse auction" expected to last the next few weeks. That will be followed by a "forward auction" that will see the spectrum sold off to companies looking to use them to provide wireless services.

Although the event is ongoing, the fierce debate over the repacking schedule lingers. The National Association of Broadcasters has consistently argued the timeframe is insufficient, saying in March the FCC "has not done any serious analysis" of the work required to move broadcasters to new channels. AT&T, meanwhile, has urged the FCC to adopt a 'realistic' schedule regardless of how long the process takes.

In its latest filing, T-Mobile also lobbied the Commission to carefully monitor bidding during the auction and act swiftly to prevent improper bidding. The company lobbied the Commission's "open Internet regime" to avoid "burdensome and unnecessary regulations." And it requested the Commission to move quickly to allocate high-band spectrum as operators prepare to deploy 5G technologies.

"Next-generation, 5G infrastructure will consume immense resources and require long-term investments in standardization, network equipment development, site acquisition, zoning approvals, infrastructure construction and end-user equipment sales and distribution," according to the filing. "Acting quickly to make the spectrum the FCC has tentatively identified for 5G available will promote investment and allow for the timely deployment of next-generation data services."

Finally, T-Mobile asked the FCC to ensure the two largest mobile network operators – namely Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T) – don't walk away with an "excessive concentration" of spectrum for 5G. "Protecting consumers and competition in this environment will require 'thinking beyond the Gs' to ensure that more than just one or two service providers can offer a wide range of 5G services," the company wrote.

For more:
- see this FCC filing

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