T-Mobile says that it could start deploying spectrum from 600MHz auction in 2017

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After months and months of anticipation, the 600MHz incentive auction is finally about to get underway. But when will we actually see the benefits of this auction? T-Mobile hopes that that’ll be next year.

“We believe we’ll be able to get the start of deployment and usage at the end of 2017,” Peter Ewens, T-Mobile’s EVP of Corporate Strategy, said this week. Ewens went on to explain that T-Mobile could deploy its 600MHz spectrum in more rural areas first because the network transitions might be easier to complete there.

The 600MHz incentive auction will include a reverse auction that’ll see television broadcasters wanting to get paid for the spectrum that they’re giving up and a forward auction with wireless carriers bidding on those spectrum licenses. The spectrum that’s bid on will need to be repacked so that it can be used by the wireless carriers. The FCC has estimated that the repacking process could take up to 39 months, and while the National Association of Broadcasters and other groups say that that’s not enough time, Peter Ewens thinks that they’ll feel different when they want to get paid:

“Obviously the repacking debate is still in play. I think personally the dynamic will change once the auction is over, because you will have winners in the reverse auction — that means broadcasters who want to get paid — and then you’ll have everyone else. And right now I think it’s easy for all the broadcasters to stand together and talk about how difficult repacking is, but once the auction’s over there’s a bunch of people who want to get paid. And they don’t get paid until the stuff gets repacked.”

T-Mobile has said that it’ll have billions to spend in the 600MHz auction. Whenever it does start to deploy the 600MHz spectrum, T-Mo expects to use the airwaves to cover parts of the US that aren’t already covered by 700MHz spectrum, as well as in some major metro areas that do have 700MHz spectrum but could also stand to be bolstered with 600MHz spectrum.

Via: FierceWireless
Source: MoffettNathanson

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  • SurvivingSunnyvale

    Is this spectrum an existing LTE band or will it be a new band that we will have to wait for vendors to add to future phones?

    • det_b

      new frequency = new bands

      • SurvivingSunnyvale

        Sometimes the frequency has been used in other countries but new to the US.

        • So they still have to establish that band in the US lol. Besides, this auction is for the US.

        • det_b

          Many other countries base their standards/use upon what the US does. Mostly because the US is the largest handset market, it’s economically advantageous to follow / impractical for smaller nations to go their own way.

          You need vendors to make the hardware.

        • det_b

          Nothing within the 600MHz range has been used for mobile networks anywhere in the world.

          With a very small exception (452.5-457.5 / 462.5-467.5 used only in parts of Scandinavia), nothing below 699MHz has been used for mobile networks anywhere.

        • And soon to be deployed in the Brazilian countryside.

  • kev2684

    Have they talked about what band this LTE is gonna be on and have they started testing it with manufacturers? 2017 seems way too early they haven’t even finalized the auction yet

    • carl

      It’s a publicity stunt more than anything else. If they do deploy 600mhz in 2017 it will be in a couple of places and maybe one rushed compatible phone.

  • Jay Holm

    Can someone explain to me why “repacking” spectrum takes so long? When thus is ready for deployment, I want Quad-band Carrier Aggregation in the cities, and T-Mobile should combine at least 700/600mhz carrier aggregation in rural areas!!!

    • Like the article said, it doesn’t. Repacking only takes a few months. They are all saying it takes years because they want more money.

      However, it is unlikely that Tmo will deploy in 2017 because negotiations takes forever then you need to repack. Tmo is saying this because they want he 700mhz squatters to give up.

      Both sides are bluffing. Everyone wants to get rich in the end.

      • Jay Holm

        It’ll be interesting to see what speeds are like when all these frequencies are combined with carrier aggregation!!!

        • Jay J. Blanco

          Just look online lol

      • Drewski

        Hey keep in mind though, that T-Mobile is still planning to deploy 600 spectrum mostly in rural area at the end of 2017. You can reread the article for yourself if you want. I’m guessing you were referring to the combining of 700/600mhz spectrum to be deployed around 2017 that time, due to Jay Holm suggestion for T-Mobile to doing such thing there. The real truth is that, T-Mobile will be more focused with deploying 600mhz spectrum in rural area by the end of 2017 that time. Let’s better hope so my friend. :)

  • Isaiah

    Not just rural areas T Mobile in Cincinnati Ohio is spectrum starved. T Mobile really needs to get 10X10 or 20X20 600MHZ spectrum their. It suck that T Mobile is keeping their GPRS and EDGE signal broadcasting until 2020. It would help Cincinnati by turning those off.

    • carl

      They should buy all they can get, specially where they need it most, and then exchange it for 700mhz, or vice versa.

    • Jay J. Blanco

      Carrier aggregation will take care of that with no problem they don’t necessarily need more spectrum

      • carl

        CA can help where there are at least two frequencies now, where there’s only B12 (inside building, rural…) 600mhz will be needed, with CA.

        Remember also that only high-end phones have CA, and that’s not good for both, people with CA phones and people without CA phones.

      • Jess

        Not really J. T-Mobile does have CA (B2+B12) and it’s not enough, since they are growing pretty rapidly here. So more spectrum is definitely needed.

  • Aurizen

    When is the auction? I thought it was last month.

    • taron19119

      It’s on going

  • S. Ali

    I love T-Mobile being aggressive about deploying spectrum they don’t own yet. Meanwhile Sprint is sitting on 120mhz of spectrum that’s been “coming soon” for 3 years. Really sums up the difference in management. Leaders vs Losers.

  • steveb944

    So any phone we buy for the next ~365 days is already old… That’s tech for ya!

    • gmo8492

      I still own a phone that only supports band 4 right when T-Mobile just started to deploy band 12. It’s been pretty good for me at least since I pretty much get LTE wherever I go. When I decide upgrade, my next phone will support all 3 LTE bands that are currently active, I doubt most people keep a phone for more than 2 or 3 years. It depends on how bad your coverage is and being dependent on a phone that supports the most LTE bands.

      • steveb944

        In the past two years and currently these changes have been going on. It’s progression, so it’s expected. Not everyone follows your upgrade cycle, but it’s safe to say 2 years is average and I personally went with a B12 device once I knew it was coming.
        You would have started with a basic LTE device , then B12, then the RCS changes, and now this new upcoming band. So 4 devices in that 2-3 year life span to be cutting edge.

      • carl

        You’ll also need CA.

      • a d00d

        Ditto. Here in Phoenix we still don’t have B12, anyway. Unfortunately my SGH-T889 (Galaxy Note II) seems about to give up the ghost. :( Still the best phone screen made, IMHO, since Samsung went back to pentile after that device.

  • Jess

    Go T-Mobile! :-)

    So what happened to the AWS-3 that Tmo purchased, haven’t heard much in reference to it in quite sometime.

    • Though band 66 has already been defined to include AWS 1 and 3, no major phone released recently supports it yet and it hasn’t seemingly been lit up either. So it comes across as overly optimistic for T-Mobile to promise rolling out in the 600 MHz band so soon before the auction even began or it’s been defined by 3GPP.

      • a d00d

        You have to remember that federal (mainly military) incumbent users in the band need to be moved, just like with UHF TV and Band-12; however, as I remember it, there will likely be some areas where movement will not occur and the band will remain in NTIA hands and be off limits to AWS-3–if memory serves, Yuma and several places in California will be this way due to military use that won’t be moved. (Again, I may be wrong here–but, at the very least, if the move happens, it will take (much?) longer.) Besides, AWS-3 isn’t nearly as valuable as the TV spectrum is, and the amount of spectrum gained compared to the headaches to open it up, IMHO, put it on the back burner.

        BTW, Augustine, this is the first time I’ve heard a Band number designation for AWS-3–thanks for the update! :)

  • Clippers FANactic

    What band will be the 600 MHz?

  • mlody_me

    is Chicago ever going to get band 12? I know that there is some kind of licensing issues, but, come on, it is about time t-mobile gets it crap together in this city and bites the bullet and does something about it cause coverage in this city, especially in buildings is beyond horrible.

    • Guest

      They cant deploy the spectrum if they dont own it and i dont think leap is going to sell it to t-mobile either

      • Not for a price that makes economic sense. If there are build out rules, when the time comes, the spectrum squatter will at last settle for a price that makes economic sense, even if it comes out under water.

    • Diver Dan

      I am in total agreement with you. I am at Northwestern Hospital 1 day a week and coverage is almost nonexistent inside the building. Even on the top floors near the windows. If there is no Band 12 solution then they better fix it some other way.

      My daughter lives in Logan Square on the top floor of a three-story apartment building. She jumped off of our family plan and went to Verizon because the TMO coverage was so spotty. Works on one end of the couch but not the other.

      • AA-Ron

        Tell her to get a signal booster for her apartment

    • YoungB

      You just answered your own question with the “licensing issues”. Keep in mind it’s not always on T-Mobile. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but it’s not always as simple as it seems.

  • wsj

    How about spending those billions on 700, that you can deploy today?

    • SirStephenH

      There’s a limited amount available, there isn’t B12 up for sale in many areas, still waiting for broadcasters to move, 600MHz is more useful spectrum than B12, etc. Take your pick.

      There’s also the fact that they are still courting potential B12 sellers and buying what they can during this whole process.

    • T-Mobile can pretty much count with only 5 MHz in band 12. It needs more than that to grow the customer base. For the foreseeable future, this is the last auction of dozens of MHz in bandwidth. A carrier would commit a deadly mistake to not take part in it.

    • zombie

      The next potential auction would be 500mhz but that will only happen when OTA dies sadly.

    • They’ve pretty much bought all that’s for sale haven’t they?

  • FU

    Tmobile should get more antennas, not more frequencies.

    • Durandal_1707

      Antennas are useless without the spectrum to transmit on.

      • FU

        Most of their phones can’t connect to the frequencies they have right now. They have plenty of spectrum. FU.

        • Durandal_1707

          If by “plenty” you mean “zero in about half of the US”, then yeah, T-Mobile has “plenty” of low-band spectrum.

        • JG

          Most of their phones can’t connect to the frequencies they have right now.

          If that’s the case, adding more towers/antennas won’t help anything, because those towers/antennas would just broadcast the frequencies that the phones can’t access and thus would be useless.

          The problem is not having enough towers. Right now, actually, T-Mobile already has more than Verizon has. The issue is that Verizon has a far larger collection of lower band frequencies at their disposal (Verizon & AT&T collectively own some 70% of the sub-1Ghz spectrum). Lower band frequencies (like the 700 and 600Mhz mentioned in this article) are able to cover more area using less power and are able to penetrate buildings easier. Which means the carrier doesn’t have to have as many towers in an area to maintain a strong network. As T-Mobile acquires and deploys more of the 6 and 700Mhz bands, their coverage will drastically improve, without having to add more towers.

          Unfortunately, often this will result in a lot of phones (especially older ones) from being unable to access the new frequencies. Sometimes, if your lucky, maybe an OTA update is all your phone needs to get it onto the new network. Or maybe you’ll have to get a new phone. Which means you’ll likely get faster hardware along with a faster connection — and access to a newer OS version and all the cool new features that brings.

          It would also be worth noting that establishing new cell towers is not the most easiest thing to do. As the towers are often rather large and not the prettiest things to look at, cities will often block the construction of new towers. Carriers might be able to get approval to install micro-cells easier. They’re smaller (give-or-take the size of the router giving you WiFi at home) so they can be hidden away easier. But they also have far less range. So lighting up a large geographical area would likely be cost prohibitive.