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Musings on Spectrum

AT&T Sells Remaining 600 MHz Spectrum

AT&T recently filed a document with the FCC to transfer its 600 MHz holdings to LB License Company, a subsidiary of Columbia Capital. As you may recall, AT&T was the fourth largest bidder - over $910M - during the recent auction of TV Broadcasters’ 600 MHz spectrum licenses.

Was the sell-off of the 600 MHz spectrum related to AT&T’s winning of the First Net contract for government first responders? That deal gave AT&T 20 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum to operate the first responder system and other commercial purposes.

We’ll be watching the next moves of Columbia Capital to see how the 600 MHz will be put to use – and by whom.

Millimeter Wave Spectrum

The legal wrangling between the FCC and FiberTower over their 24 GHz and 39 GHz licenses is over. FiberTower is abandoning all of its 24 GHz licenses (approx. 121), as well as a portion of their 39 GHz licenses. These licenses go back to the FCC to be reauctioned.

AT&T recently purchased FIberTower and will still receive 479 of the FiberTower 39 GHz licenses with approximately 360 MHz of spectrum. No licenses for 24 GHz will be included in the deal, and AT&T must still gain approval from the FCC to acquire them.

Industry stakeholder responses were not surprising. T-Mobile and the Competitive Carriers Association want all FiberTower licenses returned to the FCC for reauctioning.

VZ is also very well positioned for Millimeter Wave service with their recent purchase of Straight Path (acquired after a bidding war against AT&T. Ticker: STRP). VZ owns about 30%+ of available Millimeter Wave spectrum, which places the two big incumbents with a huge competitive advantage early in the race to offer 5G services in the U.S.

Fixed Wireless for Rural in 3.5 GHz Band?

Charter Communications is touting recent successful tests of fixed wireless in the 3.5 GHz band in rural markets. The following was included in a recent filing with the FCC: “Charter is currently testing in the 3.5 GHz Band in rural communities to determine the most effective means for deploying in this band, and already has determined that it can provide speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps at significant distances.

The FCC is currently considering final rules for the 3.5 GHz band which will include spectrum sharing and the rules for geographic areas of the licenses. Charter believes that the recent testing completed supports county wide geographic licenses for 3.5 GHz.

In summary, there is lots of spectrum activity on the horizon in 2018. All the way from the very low band spectrum holdings, critical to the Broadcasters, to 5G and Millimeter Wave at 39 GHz.

Let’s hope FCC Chair Pai is successful with squelching the NSC idea for the United States to nationalize and run a 5G network!

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