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.