T-Mobile Urges Congress to Reinstate FCC’s Auction Authority

UPDATE T-Mobile would like Congress to reauthorize the FCC’s spectrum auction authority so it can use the 2.5 GHz spectrum it won at auction last summer. President of Technology Neville Ray says the telecom “has been stuck in regulatory limbo with the spectrum won in Auction 108. Spectrum can boost speeds and add capacity for consumers, many in rural areas.”

The agency’s authority to conduct spectrum auctions and many of the activities associated with those expired for the first time in 30 years on March 9, Inside Towers reported. 

“It’s critical for government to act NOW and reinstate the FCC’s spectrum authority,” Ray says in a blog. “Otherwise, the U.S. is in jeopardy of falling behind in not just connectivity but innovation as well.

Ray’s referring to the more than 7,000 licenses for 2.5 GHz spectrum it won in last summer’s Auction 108. The carrier paid more than $300M for the licenses. “Those licenses support wireless service in all 50 states and Puerto Rico,” writes the expert. “They will boost speeds and bring mid-band 5G to consumers for the first time in some places. Many of the licenses sold cover rural areas where the spectrum has been dormant, sitting on the shelf at the FCC for nearly 30 years.”

But, as Inside Towers reported, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel told attendees of a satellite conference in March that without its auction authority reinstated, the Commission can’t actually issue the licenses from that auction. Four past FCC General Counsels believe it can and have told the agency so.

So does T-Mobile, because the auction was completed before the authority lapsed. That’s why the carrier is seeking a Special Temporary Authority (STA) “to allow us to turn on service while Congress finds a path forward on auction authority,” says Ray. “The FCC grants STAs to utilize spectrum when extraordinary circumstances exist. We think that a once-in-a-generation lapse of auction authority is extraordinary.” T-Mobile has asked for a 180-day STA to provide service in the 2.5 GHz (2496-2690 MHz) band to consumers in any rural and underserved areas.

Ray says T-Mobile has “built out the towers and radios needed” to use its new 2.5 GHz licenses in many areas of the country. If it has them, the telecom could “light up” those markets in a matter of days, he asserts. “That’s right—those radios are deployed and ready to be turned up. The only thing separating nearly 50 million Americans from enhanced capacity, a huge speed boost, and world-class 5G is the FCC issuing STAs.” 

He says with the extra spectrum, T-Mobile would have enough capacity “to offer home internet to millions of families, many of whom never have had a choice in broadband providers.”

T-Mobile plans to continue working with Congress to reinstate the FCC’s auction authority “and secure a future spectrum pipeline so that the U.S. remains a global wireless leader for years to come. And we’ll continue advocating for the FCC to use its licensing power to grant us what we won in the last auction,” writes Ray.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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