T-Mobile presses for 12 GHz auction – rather than ‘windfall’ for Dish

T-Mobile is all for the FCC taking a “fresh look” at the 12 GHz band, as long as it doesn’t allow for the likes of Dish Network to get an “undeserved windfall.”

The spectrum band is currently the subject of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) at the FCC. The first round of comments came due last week.

Unsurprisingly, the 12 GHz proceeding is fueling more fire in the feud between T-Mobile and Dish, which played a major role in T-Mobile’s ability to get its Sprint merger – and coveted 2.5 GHz spectrum acquisition – over the finish line. They’re currently embroiled in a fight over T-Mobile’s CDMA shutdown.

Dish, which holds the lion’s share of multichannel video and data distribution service (MVDDS) licenses in the 12 GHz band, has been urging the FCC to change the rules in the 12 GHz so that two-way, 5G communications will be allowed.

According to Dish, there’s no need to hold an auction for the spectrum; it was already auctioned years ago, and Dish is one of the main beneficiaries. Dish also has been using the 12 GHz band for direct broadcast satellite (DBS) as part of its dwindling pay TV business – and it’s willing to share the band with non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) services.

RELATED: Dish, RS Access lead new coalition in fight over 12 GHz band

T-Mobile, however, is arguing that the FCC should not simply grant terrestrial mobile rights to existing MVDDS licensees. “Not only has the Commission recently rejected that approach, but it would essentially provide MVDDS licensees with an undeserved windfall,” T-Mobile told the agency in a May 7 filing.

The “un-carrier” points to the C-band proceeding, where the FCC rejected scenarios that would enable incumbent fixed satellite licensees to be “the sole conveyors of newly-created flexible use rights in the band.” Instead, the FCC found that a public auction was the preferred approach.

In fact, T-Mobile is calling for the agency to kick MVDDS operations out of the 12 GHz band and relocate them somewhere else. “If the commission determines that the 12.5 GHz band can be shared between terrestrial mobile and satellite operations, it should designate the terrestrial use of the band for mobile use only and no longer preserve the band for MVDDS operations,” T-Mobile said.

Rather than assigning new terrestrial mobile service rights to existing licensees, “it should relocate the few MVDDS licensees that have actively deployed their spectrum to other bands,” T-Mobile said, in direct opposition to what Dish is seeking.

T-Mobile also wants the commission to look at a couple other spectrum bands for good measure: the 17 GHz and 13 GHz bands. “Doing so will allow the commission to evaluate a more complete picture of spectrum available for different uses,” T-Mobile told the agency.

One of the biggest opponents of opening the 12 GHz band for 5G is SpaceX, the satellite company led by Elon Musk that wants to use the 12 GHz band for its Starlink internet service. The FCC approved a third modification order that allows SpaceX to continue using the 12 GHz band, but the agency said it does so “at its own risk,” due to the pending 12 GHz proceeding.

The “un-carrier” points to assertions by RS Access, the second largest holder of MVDDS licenses, that sharing between NGSO constellations and mobile services may be possible.

Indeed, RS Access recently submitted two reports into the record: a technical analysis by RFK Engineering Solutions showing coexistence between satellite and terrestrial 5G is feasible; and an economic analysis by The Brattle Group that shows opening the 12 GHz band to 5G, digital broadcast satellite (DBS) and NGSO could result in an upside of up to $1 trillion for the U.S. economy.

RELATED: RC Access: Studies show ‘win-win’ for 12 GHz band

"We were pleased to work with RKF Engineering on their coexistence study, which is apparently the only technical showing placed in the record so far,” said V. Noah Campbell, co-founder and CEO of RS Access, in a statement provided to Fierce.

The studies were presented as part of the NPRM that the FCC announced earlier this year. The first round of comments came due May 7, with another round expected by early June.