Checking in on the top 10 owners of 600 MHz spectrum licenses

T-Mobile continues to boast of its extensive 600 MHz and 700 MHz low-band spectrum holdings. (T-Mobile)

As the FCC digs into its latest spectrum auction, and as T-Mobile prepares to light up 5G services on its 600 MHz spectrum, the time is right to take stock of the nation’s 600 MHz landscape.

The FCC’s 600 MHz incentive auction of TV broadcasters’ unwanted spectrum was a noteworthy event. It was the culmination of years of work by officials at the FCC—it initially arose from Congress’ National Broadband Plan in 2010—and it featured “beachfront” low-band spectrum ideal for long-distance connections. Further, the auction itself sported a unique “reverse” auction that paid TV broadcasters for their unwanted spectrum licenses, and then made that spectrum available to wireless carriers and others through a traditional “forward” auction.

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The 600 MHz auction ended in 2017, raising a total of almost $20 billion in winning bids. T-Mobile walked away with the lion’s share of those licenses and an $8 billion bill.

And T-Mobile has wasted no time deploying those licenses. Last month the carrier disclosed that it has so far switched on commercial 600 MHz LTE service in 1,500 cities and towns in 37 states and Puerto Rico. To do so, the carrier said it has had to enter 76 different agreements with TV broadcasters to clear the spectrum for cellular use. T-Mobile said it expects to cover a total of 132 million POPs by the end of 2018 with 600 MHz services, and fully 265 million POPs by the end of 2019.

More importantly, T-Mobile said it currently offers 21 devices compatible with 600 MHz, including the latest generation of iPhones.

Further, T-Mobile earlier this year pegged its 5G ambitions on its 600 MHz holdings: The carrier said it would deploy 5G in its 600 MHz spectrum in 30 cities by the end of this year. And, if T-Mobile is successful in acquiring Sprint, it has said it will expand that effort into Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum.

Regardless, T-Mobile is clearly pushing to make use of its 600 MHz holdings.

However, other 600 MHz auction winners haven’t been nearly as active on the topic. AT&T, for example, sold all of its 600 MHz holdings through separate transactions with Columbia Capital and Tstar. Dish, for its part, has argued it can’t deploy its 600 MHz holdings because much of the spectrum hasn’t yet been cleared by TV broadcasters.

Comcast executives haven’t discussed their 600 MHz plans, nor have U.S. Cellular executives.

Thus, as the FCC begins its first major spectrum auction since the 600 MHz incentive auction (Auction 101, which is ongoing), it’s worth taking a look at exactly which companies own what 600 MHz spectrum licenses today.

The below charts and information are courtesy of Moise Advisory.

1. T-Mobile

Licenses

MHz-POPs (MM)

Company

ULS Name

Type

  1,525

      9,617.1

T-Mobile

T-Mobile License LLC

Operator


2. Dish Network

Licenses

MHz-POPs (MM)

Company

ULS Name

Type

      486

      5,569.1

DISH

ParkerB.com Wireless L.L.C.

Satellite


3. Comcast

Licenses

MHz-POPs (MM)

Company

ULS Name

Type

        73

      1,472.1

Comcast

CC Wireless Investment, LLC

Cable


4. Columbia

Licenses

MHz-POPs (MM)

Company

ULS Name

Type

        24

      1,382.4

Columbia

Channel 51 License Co LLC/LB License Co, LLC

Venture


5. Bluewater

Licenses

MHz-POPs (MM)

Company

ULS Name

Type

        66

          906.2

Bluewater

Bluewater Wireless II, L.P.

Venture

Charlie Townsend/Abrams Capital


6. U.S. Cellular

Licenses

MHz-POPs (MM)

Company

ULS Name

Type

      188

          561.0

US Cellular

United States Cellular Corp.

Operator


7. Omega

Licenses

MHz-POPs (MM)

Company

ULS Name

Type

      119

          548.6

Omega

Omega Wireless LLC

Venture

MC/Peppertree/Shamrock


8. Grain

Licenses

MHz-POPs (MM)

Company

ULS Name

Type

        26

          440.4

Grain

NewLevel, LLC

Venture


9. Tstar

Licenses

MHz-POPs (MM)

Company

ULS Name

Type

        19

          294.8

TStar

TStar 600, LLC

Venture


10. ATNI

Licenses

MHz-POPs (MM)

Company

ULS Name

Type

        32

            67.5

ATNI

SAL Spectrum, LLC

Operator


 

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