Based on new charts from Allnet Insights & Analytics, it’s clear that AT&T and Verizon are poised to control a significant chunk of the nation’s available, licensed millimeter-wave spectrum. This is important because these spectrum bands are expected to form a significant chunk of future 5G services.
Before we get into the details, let’s look at the first and most important chart from Allnet:
Further, AT&T agreed to acquire all of FiberTower’s assets back in January, including licenses that are the subject of a pending remand from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit. Back in 2012, FiberTower filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and in 2014 the FCC deemed that FiberTower did not demonstrate that it had deployed a service substantial enough to meet FCC buildout requirements, paving the way for FiberTower to lose a portion of its licenses. AT&T is arguing that it will be a good steward of those terminated licenses and that it should be given control over them. Naturally, others disagree.
Thus, in the graphic above, the pie chart on the left side reflects only FiberTower’s active licenses, and the one on the right side indicates the effect of FiberTower’s active and terminated licenses. It’s unclear whether AT&T will ultimately gain control over FiberTower’s terminated licenses.
Now let’s dig further into the millimeter-wave space.
Millimeter-wave spectrum generally comprises radio waves above 20 GHz. Signals in such spectrum typically don’t travel very far but can transmit large amounts of data. Some millimeter-wave bands are unlicensed, meaning anyone can use them. Other bands, such as those at 24 GHz and 39 GHz, can only be used by entities that own a license provided by the FCC. The 28-31 GHz band, generally referred to as LMDS spectrum, is also a licensed millimeter-wave spectrum band.
The FCC manages the nation’s spectrum holdings, ensuring that it’s shared among licensees, government users and others. The FCC is currently debating whether and how to release additional spectrum it currently controls.
Finally, the LMDS band is similarly split among the FCC, AT&T, Verizon and others, with Verizon controlling a majority of the licenses in that band: