Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile pick apart FCC's millimeter wave proposals

The nation's largest carriers still argue for more spectrum for licensed use -- no surprise there – but they're also fully behind the commission's efforts to identify new spectrum above 24 GHz.

The only sticking points are – you guessed it – in the details. Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T) would like the commission to combine the 37 and 39 GHz bands – AT&T says that will be the most useful for 5G systems, and Verizon says equipment manufacturers could achieve economies of scale by producing equipment that operates on standardized channels across the entire band.

Indeed, equipment provider Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) agrees, saying it wants the FCC to combine the 37 GHz and 39 GHz frequencies into a single band rather than segregate them into two bands with different rules and eligibility restrictions. "An unencumbered band of spectrum with uniformity of service and technical rules will facilitate the assignment of large contiguous blocks that are so important for 5G," the vendor told the commission.

Verizon also said the 37 GHz band would be more likely to be quickly put to use for 5G under a traditional framework rather than under the FCC's proposed hybrid one. "With no terrestrial licensees, this band offers an excellent opportunity for a variety of next generation technologies," Verizon said in its filing, adding that the commission's hybrid proposal would limit the utility of the 37 GHz band.

Verizon's comments are consistent with earlier ex parte comments the company filed after company representatives met with the commission.

T-Mobile USA (NYSE:TMUS) says the commission also should consider authorizing additional millimeter wave bands. The four criteria that the FCC used to evaluate whether a millimeter wave band is suitable for mobile use unnecessarily limits the commission's consideration of other bands, according to T-Mobile.

"Specifically, the Commission's 500 megahertz cut-off is overly restrictive and, as Commissioner Pai noted, artificial," T-Mobile said, noting that the commission rejected the 42 GHz, 32 GHz, 70 GHz and 80 GHz bands even though they each have at least 500 megahertz of contiguous spectrum available.

Both Verizon and AT&T are among those lobbying against a county level licensing arrangement. AT&T said a county-based geographic licensing approach may raise troublesome coordination challenges for several 5G use cases, and with so much work left to be done to bring 5G to fruition, long license terms coupled with clear renewal terms are appropriate.

Verizon said rather than assign licenses on a county level, the commission should issue licenses for 28 GHz and 39 GHz that are no smaller than those bands' existing license sizes – basic trading areas (BTAs) and economic areas (EAs), respectively.  

While Verizon has said it plans to be the first U.S. operator to deploy 5G services, AT&T is playing it cool, saying it wants to wait for the standards bodies to determine what 5G will be before overpromising things. In its Jan. 28 fling, AT&T said the transformation from 4G to 5G wireless services is about more than just lightning-speed data rates and groundbreaking applications; "it is about cementing the United States as the unquestioned leader of mobile technology and propelling the country toward a new era of technological advancement."

The FCC kicked off its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) last fall, proposing new flexible use service rules in the 28 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 64-71 GHz bands. Comments on the NPRM were due last week, with reply comments set to be due by Feb. 23.

For more:
- see this Verizon filing
- see this AT&T filing
- see this T-Mobile filing

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