T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) is seeking to gain more 700 MHz A Block licenses from Frontier Communications and an individual spectrum holder, Thomas Kurian.
According to filings with the FCC, T-Mobile is seeking to gain spectrum from Frontier in the area of Rochester, N.Y. The deal with Kurian covers the markets of Grand Forks and Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota and Minnesota. Financial terms of the transactions were not disclosed.
Wireless industry observer Tim Nguyen said that the deal with Frontier covers around 1.51 million POPs and the deal with Kurian covers around 620,000 POPs.
As it has in similar filings, T-Mobile said the deals will yield clear public interest benefits by allowing it to expand its 700 MHz footprint "and thus offer improved services to its customers." T-Mobile also notes that there will be no loss of service or competition since the current license owners are not providing service on the spectrum. The FCC still needs to approve the purchases.
T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray disclosed earlier this month at an investor conference that T-Mobile has purchased more A Block spectrum covering another 9 million POPs, but he did not say how much T-Mobile paid for the spectrum or which company or companies it purchased the spectrum from. T-Mobile representatives have generally declined to provide details on the carrier's spectrum purchases.
Although Frontier is a well-known telecom firm, Kurian is not exactly a household name. An FCC filing describes him as "an individual with years of experience in the telecommunications industry."
A LinkedIn profile for Kurian lists him as the president of Vegas Wireless LLC and says he used to work as an engineering manager at Motorola. The FCC's spectrum dashboard also indicates that in addition to the two licenses he is looking to sell to T-Mobile, Kurian controls a license for 700 MHz spectrum in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
"Mr. Kurian and/or Vegas Wireless own and operate 4G and WiMAX Systems in Eighteen (18) Western States in USA using the FCC Auctioned exclusive 700 MHz and 220 MHz Geographical Spectrum," Kurian's LinkedIn profile states. "Mr. Kurian and/or Vegas Wireless also own and operate many Wide Area Radio Trunking System using the 800 and 900 MHz Site Based FCC license."
T-Mobile recently paid $50.5 million to get A Block spectrum covering 8.7 million POPs from a variety of companies, including CenturyLink subsidiary Actel, and I-700 A Block LLC. Those purchases were designed to augment the A Block spectrum it purchased from Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) for $2.4 billion covering 150 million POPs.
At the investor conference, Ray said T-Mobile has already deployed some of its 700 MHz spectrum "in some key cities" and that the carrier is "delighted with the performance of low-band" spectrum."
"So that low-band portfolio for us is actually growing quite nicely," he said. T-Mobile has said it will start selling 700 MHz-capable devices in the fourth quarter.
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Correction, Sept. 29, 2014: This article incorrectly stated the number of covered POPs involved in T-Mobile's 700 MHz A Block purchase from Verizon. It was for 150 million covered POPs, not 158 million.