T-Mobile wades into spectrum debate, supports 600MHz interoperability

5 Feb 2013

T-Mobile USA has joined the ongoing debate regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) planned incentive auctions for repurposed broadcast television spectrum, outlining a proposed band plan, lobbying for 600MHz interoperability and pushing for spectrum caps on frequencies below 1GHz. Fierce Wireless writes that T-Mobile apparently supports much of the watchdog’s plan to reallocate and reassign 600MHz spectrum from broadcast TV to mobile broadband use but has suggested a number of ‘tweaks’.

In a blog posting on the company website, Kathleen Ham, T-Mobile’s vice president of federal regulatory affairs, wrote: ‘We are working with the FCC and other stakeholders to ensure that the 600MHz band plan, the ‘forward’ auction, and the ‘reverse’ auction all work in concert to reallocate and reassign spectrum from broadcast television to mobile broadband uses. T-Mobile’s proposals call for some tweaks to the FCC’s already well-conceived plan. First, with regard to the band plan, the Commission should work to maximise the amount of paired spectrum made available through the clearing process, avoid interference to and from licensed wireless and broadcasting services, and enable device performance and size consistent with existing smart phones and tablets … Second, in designing the forward auction, the FCC should adopt policies that accelerate the auction, thereby lowering the costs of, and encouraging participation in, both the forward and reverse auctions. Offering ‘generic’, spectrum licences that are not frequency-specific within each geographic area and separating the licences by Major Economic Areas rather than the smaller Economic Areas would help increase auction efficiency. In addition, the FCC should promote interoperability across all paired 600MHz band channels by adopting an express interoperability requirement and by using a quasi-random assignment process to assign generic 600MHz blocks … Most importantly, to promote long-term competition, encourage auction participation, and prevent the further consolidation of spectrum below 1GHz, the Commission should adopt rules that prohibit any licensee from acquiring more than a certain percentage of spectrum below 1GHz, applied on a market-by-market basis. As we have noted elsewhere, adopting a spectrum-based cap equal to one-third of the available commercial mobile spectrum below 1GHz would give bidders reasonable assurances that they can meaningfully compete for spectrum in a geographic area without the risk of only one or two of the largest carriers commandeering the entire market’.

Fierce Wireless adds that, in its parallel presentation to the FCC, T-Mobile displayed a graph showing that AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless together currently hold in excess of 100MHz of lower-band spectrum averaged across the top 100 markets, while all other carriers combined hold around 20MHz.