FCC seizes mmWave licences from AT&T’s FiberTower unit

31 Jan 2018

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced a settlement with FiberTower – the millimetre wave (mmWave) company acquired by AT&T Inc last year – which involves the company returning hundreds of sought-after spectrum licences to the watchdog. Fierce Wireless reports that FiberTower has been forced to relinquish all of its 24GHz concessions (around 121 in total) and roughly the same number of 39GHz permits. The settlement means that AT&T will only get around 479 of FiberTower’s 39GHz licences and none of its 24GHz licences, putting a significant dent in its 5G plans. Further, the FCC is now in a position to re-auction the vacant licences at some point in the future, with T-Mobile US a likely bidder.

According to the FCC paperwork, the issue dates back to July 2012, when FiberTower filed a petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. That decision prompted the regulator to declare that FiberTower had not demonstrated that it had deployed a service substantial enough to meet FCC buildout requirements, and the company has now forfeited a large number of concessions as a result.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in January 2017 AT&T entered into an agreement to acquire San Francisco-based FiberTower, and its mmWave spectrum rights. The company was founded in March 2014 and currently offers spectrum leases and backhaul services to wireless carriers.