T-Mobile: Broadcast Spectrum Will Be Insufficient

Wireless Firm Says Govt.'s Ultimate Goal Should be Giving Up, Not Sharing, Spectrum

According to written testimony for a Sept. 13 House hearing on government spectrum use, T-Mobile will tell the House Communications Subcommittee the FCC incentive auctions for reclaimed broadcast spectrum combined with earlier fixed microwave spectrum freed up for mobile still "are simply not enough" to meet demand, even combined with what they say are their ongoing efforts to use the spectrum they have more efficiently.

The company also says that for the most part, freed-up government spectrum should be turned over to commercial users on an exclusive, or near-exclusive, basis, rather than shared. A National Telecommunications and Information Administration report identifying 95 MHz of government spectrum for possible reclamation said sharing needed to be part of the solution to the spectrum crunch.

Steve Sharkey, director of engineering and tech policy, for T-Mobile, made those points in saying that while government spectrum should be used as efficiently as possible, some should be freed up for commercial users like T-Mobile.

Sharkey put in a pitch for the government clearing the 1755-1780 MHz band -- currently used by the Department of Defense and others -- and pairing it with adjacent spectrum the FCC already has teed up for auction. He said auctioned together, the spectrum could go for $12 billion.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski also favors freeing up and pairing that government spectrum ASAP rather than waiting for the entire 95 MHZ of government Spectrum NTIA identified to be shared or cleared at an estimated cost of $18 billion over a decade.

Starkey suggests that the difficulties of clearing the band outlined in the NTIA report on freeing up government spectrum may have overstated the challenge and understated the feasibility. for example, he says, "in relocating Federal users from the AWS-1 band, we found that fundamental misunderstandings of how our respective systems operate led to unnecessarily pessimistic predictions of potential."

In August, the FCC and NTIA approved T-Mobile's request to test mobile wireless in the 1755-1780 spectrum. As part of that, he said, T-Mobile is working with DOD and carriers "to monitor operation of and gather accurate information about several of the systems identified in NTIA's 2012 report that appear to be the most difficult, costly or time consuming to relocate."

Back in June 2010, the president directed NTIA and the FCC to come up with 500 MHz of spectrum within 10 years. NTIA oversees government spectrum users much as the FCC does commercial ones.

NTIA came up with a 10-year plan for freeing up spectrum and the report identifying the 1755-1850 spectrum that it concluded could be reclaimed and re-auctioned for wireless, just as the FCC is doing with 80-120 MHz of broadcast spectrum in its incentive auctions.