At the beginning of the pandemic last year, T-Mobile wrangled additional 600 MHz spectrum from a number of companies and from unused spectrum held by the FCC to bolster its capacity for Americans during a crisis.
On July 27, T-Mobile filed a sixth application with the FCC for an extension until November 8, 2021 of its special temporary authority (STA) to continue using some spectrum in the 600 MHz band that has not been assigned.
Some of the partial economic areas covered by this spectrum are in Los Angeles; San Diego; Tucson, Arizona; and Bellingham, Washington.
T-Mobile said in its filing, “Grant of this request is in the public interest because it will allow consumers and businesses to continue to benefit from the additional capacity that the additional spectrum provides.” It said this capacity is needed more than ever because people’s “life and work patterns produced by the pandemic” have permanently shifted. People are likely to continue virtual activities, including remote working, telemedicine and distance learning.
“This relief can be provided by simply permitting otherwise unused spectrum – for which there are no current plans for licensing – to continue to serve the public,” stated T-Mobile. “Grant of the relief that renewal of the STA will provide can be achieved by simply putting what would otherwise be fallow spectrum to work.”
T-Mobile said that use of 600 MHz spectrum is particularly important along the U.S.-Mexico border areas covered by some of the licenses because there have been interference issues in its 700 MHz band due to Mexico’s use of that spectrum.
When the pandemic first hit, and T-Mobile and Dish were still friends, Dish loaned T-Mobile its unused 600 MHz spectrum to help it boost capacity during the crisis. Dish has 600 MHz spectrum in every partial economic area (PEA) in the United States.
It was only a few months later, though, when Dish and T-Mobile weren’t so friendly anymore that Dish became reluctant to extend those spectrum loans.
Aside from loans, though, T-Mobile was expected to negotiate 600 MHz leases with Dish, which the parties agreed to do as part of the Final Judgement in the Sprint/T-Mobile/Dish deal. However, they were unable to reach an agreement, so the Department of Justice had to determine the terms of the lease deal.
In an analysis of the DoJ’s terms, the analysts at LightShed Partners found that T-Mobile is only leasing 600 MHz spectrum from Dish in markets representing 30% of the population. The markets include New York and Miami but do not include Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
The analyst said the DoJ’s terms resulted in “narrower than expected spectrum lease[s].”