The 2.5 GHz spectrum is the star of T-Mobile’s 5G spectrum show. It amassed a treasure trove of it when it acquired Sprint, catapulting the “un-carrier” into a force to be reckoned with. It picked up another 7,000+ licenses in the most recent FCC spectrum auction, where it spent about $304 million to fill in spaces in mostly rural areas.
Given all the well-earned attention on mid-band spectrum deployments for 5G, it’s easy to forget that T-Mobile also acquired additional millimeter band (mmWave) usage rights a couple years ago when the FCC auctioned spectrum licenses in the upper 37, 39 and 47 GHz bands.
Since then and even before the 39 GHz spectrum was auctioned, T-Mobile has been angling to see how it can best put its licenses to work, including through Special Temporary Authority (STA) from the FCC to conduct tests in the 39 GHz band.
T-Mobile previously received FCC authorization to conduct 39 GHz tests in Las Vegas, and last week, it submitted a new request to extend its testing authority. The current grant is scheduled to expire on November 2, and there’s a 15-day filing window where an applicant can seek a relatively easy extension.
T-Mobile is now asking for authorization to conduct 39 GHz tests in Las Vegas for another two years, but it’s reducing the number of locations at which it wants to test from 11 to eight. It’s using infrastructure gear from Ericsson; handset suppliers were not identified in the application materials.
The company acquired 39 GHz licenses in Las Vegas and was licensed to operate across the N11, N12, N13 and N14 blocks, but it also requested to operate on the adjacent N7, N8, N9 and N10 blocks so that it could assess how networks incorporating 800 megahertz of contiguous spectrum can be optimized. The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) granted its previous request, allowing it to operate on an experimental basis until November 2.
“Grant of the application will serve the public interest because it will allow T-Mobile to continue exploring how to make even more productive use of its millimeter wave spectrum and testing its network capabilities and features, many of which require wide bandwidths for optimal functioning, across the full 39 GHz band,” T-Mobile told the commission.
Stadiums are a popular place for mmWave deployments and T-Mobile recently announced the launch of its “Ultra Capacity 5G” at Q2 Stadium for Austin FC soccer fans in Austin, Texas. However, that deployment does not use mmWave, a spokesperson said.
The company has said that it has mmWave deployed in eight cities, including Las Vegas, where it’s using either 39 GHz or 28 GHz.