T-Mobile: We'll prove shared 1755-1780 MHz band can be auctioned

T-Mobile USA expects that its tests of spectrum sharing in the 1755-1780 MHz band will open up the frequencies for pairing with the existing AWS-3 band for eventual auction long before all government entities are cleared from the spectrum, according to a company executive.

The operator's planned tests--part of a joint industry-government effort--along with monitoring of existing government uses in the band and other analyses will also show that commercial LTE services "can share the band through an extended transition period, if not indefinitely, with existing federal uses that will either take too long or be too costly to relocate," wrote Steve Sharkey, T-Mobile director of government affairs for technology and engineering policy, on the operator's Issues & Insights Blog.

Once testing is successfully completed, the spectrum can be paired with the existing commercial AWS-3 band at 2155-2180 MHz and auctioned "without a requirement that all government facilities be cleared completely from the spectrum before commencement of commercial operations, while fully protecting government operations," said Sharkey. He added that the use of spectrum sharing for at least an interim period will allow faster deployment of broadband services in the spectrum than otherwise would be possible.

On Aug. 14, the FCC granted T-Mobile 's request for special temporary authority (STA) to test the suitability of mobile broadband services in the 1755-1780 MHz band. According to Sharkey, "The wireless industry is unified in its position that this spectrum, which is used around the world for commercial mobile services and is immediately adjacent to already deployed AWS spectrum in the U.S., is a good candidate to convert to commercial purposes."

Sharkey said that previous studies of 1755-1780 MHz band did not deliver the details necessary to understand the feasibility of sharing in the band. "We now have in place key elements to move beyond prior efforts," he wrote.

T-Mobile's testing plan includes what is being described as a cooperative exchange of information as part of the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee, an advisory committee to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), as well as a program for monitoring actual use of the spectrum. Further, the STA will enable the operator to conduct tests in the band without harmful interference.

"Given the excellent pairing opportunity with the AWS-3 band, the 1755-1780 MHz block of spectrum would be especially useful to companies like T-Mobile as they move more fully into the LTE world," said Sharkey.

T-Mobile has struggled with spectrum constraints that prevented it from rolling out LTE, but those issues were alleviated somewhat when it was handed numerous AWS licenses by AT&T (NYSE:T) after AT&T's planned $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile fell apart last year amid resistance from regulators. T-Mobile is also acquiring additional AWS licenses from Leap Wireless via a spectrum swap and from Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) in deal that included T-Mobile giving its blessing to the latter's acquisition of AWS licenses from four cable TV operators.

T-Mobile is embarking on a $4 billion network upgrade to launch LTE next year on its 1700/2100 MHz AWS spectrum and refarm its 1900 MHz PCS spectrum--currently used for GSM--for HSPA+ services.

AT&T and trade group CTIA have been vocal in expressing their reservations about the concept of spectrum sharing, particularly after the President's Council of Advisors on Policy and Technology recommended that commercial entities learn to share spectrum with the federal government rather than expect exclusive access. Both groups have left open the door for its use in certain cases.

CTIA has cited the 1755-1780 MHz band as a spectrum band that could be cleared and paired with other AWS spectrum. When T-Mobile's STA was first announced by the FCC, Chris Guttman-McCabe, CTIA's vice president of regulatory affairs, applauded the planned testing, which he said would provide "valuable insight."

NTIA first recommended that the 1755-1850 MHz band could be repurposed for commercial wireless use on a shared basis in March 2012.

For more:
- see this T-Mobile blog post

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