T-Mobile's 700 MHz buildout in 2016 revealed: Over $1B spent in Utah, Southeast and elsewhere

In just the past few weeks T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) has spent more than $1 billion purchasing 700 MHz A Block spectrum licenses from the likes of Cellular South, Cavalier, C700 and others to cover major areas of Utah, New Mexico, parts of the Southeast and elsewhere. T-Mobile previously disclosed it purchased significant 700 MHz licenses earlier this year, but new data from Brian Goemmer, president of spectrum tracking company Allnet Insights & Analytics, as well as figures from T-Mobile's recent filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, show how much T-Mobile spent on the spectrum, who it bought the licenses from, and where those licenses are located.

Indeed, in its SEC filings, T-Mobile offered some clear financial figures on what it spent on the 700 MHz A Block licenses. "In January 2016, T-Mobile acquired spectrum licenses covering nearly 20 million people in seven major metropolitan markets for approximately $0.6 billion in cash," the carrier said.

"Additionally, in January and February 2016, T-Mobile entered into agreements with multiple third parties for the exchange of certain spectrum licenses and the acquisition of 700 MHz A Block spectrum licenses covering approximately 48 million people, for approximately $0.7 billion in cash," the carrier added. "In the first quarter of 2016, spectrum licenses to be exchanged of $0.2 billion will be transferred to held for sale and included in Other current assets. Non-cash gains are expected to be recognized upon closing of the exchange transactions, which are expected to occur in mid-2016, subject to regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions."

As noted by Allnet Insights & Analytics, T-Mobile has inked agreements with nine companies so far this year to purchase 700 MHz A Block spectrum licenses covering roughly 49 million Americans. However, to be clear, these transactions are still pending at the FCC, which must approve all secondary-market spectrum exchanges.

Here is a chart from Allnet Insights & Analytics showing the companies T-Mobile is purchasing spectrum from, and the population those licenses cover, based on the 2010 census. This chart also lists the 700 MHz spectrum licenses that T-Mobile already owns, which cover roughly 200 million people.

T-Mobile has been buying 700 MHz spectrum for the past few years to improve its coverage area with low-band spectrum, which is generally viewed as good for covering large geographical areas due to its propagation characteristics. T-Mobile has often referred to the spectrum as its "Extended Range" LTE service.

And here is a picture from Allnet Insights & Analytics of T-Mobile's current 700 MHz spectrum holdings alongside the licenses it recently agreed to purchase.


Click here for a larger version of this image.

Allnet's Goemmer noted that T-Mobile is working to build out its 700 MHz areas with network coverage, but that these maps show only its spectrum holdings and not its actual network coverage.

Finally, Allnet Insights & Analytics offered a final map showing the current status of 700 MHz A Block ownership around the country, indicating that T-Mobile stands as the primary owner of such licenses nationwide.


Click here for a larger version of this image.

However, T-Mobile has made clear its plans to purchase additional 600 MHz low-band spectrum through the FCC's upcoming incentive auction of TV broadcasters' unwanted licenses. T-Mobile has said it could spend up to $10 billion in that auction in efforts to flesh out its low-band coverage across the United States.

For more:
- see this Allnet PDF report

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