AT&T gets OK for tests using various frequencies in Texas lab

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AT&T is cleared for tests using various frequencies at its facility in Austin, Texas. (Getty Images/RoschetzkyIstockPhoto)

AT&T has received the OK for tests at its lab in Austin, Texas, using a range of spectrum bands, including 3700-4200 MHz (C-Band), 3400-3600 MHz and others. The FCC just this week granted AT&T’s application for the experiments.

AT&T is staying mum on the suppliers of the equipment it’s using, listing “confidential” under the manufacturer section of the application, although it does reveal using 12 prototype units and six other units from “various” suppliers. The grant indicates the tests will commence May 1 and the authorization will remain in effect until May 1, 2021.  

The authorization stipulates that AT&T must coordinate with all earth stations operating in the 3650-4200 MHz band and coordinate with fixed microwave service licensees prior to operation in the 3700-4200 MHz and 27500-28500 MHz bands.

The 14 GHz, 28 GHz and 37/39 GHz bands also are covered in the authorization for tests. 

Still pending at the FCC is AT&T’s application to conduct tests in Austin and elsewhere using frequencies as diverse as 824-894 MHz to 5.725-5.825 GHz. That application lists Blinq and Taqua among the suppliers of experimental prototype equipment.

The tests involving midband spectrum are notable given the intense demand in the U.S. for such spectrum for 5G. The U.S. is studying the 3.45-3.55 GHz band, but there’s no specific timing on the availability of spectrum.

The 3.7-4.2 GHz band, however, is in the crosshairs, so to speak, at the FCC, where it corresponds to satellite operators’ use of the C-band. The FCC is still accepting comments and meetings regarding the use of the C-band, with the C-Band Alliance (CBA) meeting with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai as recently as Feb. 11.

According to an ex parte (PDF) filing, that meeting involved several executives connected to the CBA, including SES, Intelsat and Intel executives. Intel is not a member of the CBA, but it has been focused on facilitating the repurposing of the C-band spectrum in an expeditious manner.

Peter Pitsch, consultant for Intel, explained during the meeting that repurposing spectrum involves many complicated technical and economical decisions and that with the right incentives, the C-band satellite operators are best suited to make those decisions subject to FCC oversight.

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But the docket makes clear that the midband spectrum conundrum is not going to be an easy puzzle to solve. Numerous parties are affected by whatever action the commission takes, and some are suggesting that if the FCC goes with the CBA proposal, that would end up leading to more litigation and further delay the allocation of midband spectrum for 5G.

CBA proponents insist the CBA proposal will be the most expeditious way to allocate the spectrum voluntarily, but numerous stakeholders are getting increasingly frustrated (PDF) with the lack of answers they’re getting from the CBA about how things will be handled in the band.

Article updated Feb. 14 specifying additional spectrum bands.