AT&T takes advantage of early C-band clearing

AT&T, which was the second biggest spender in the FCC’s C-band auction in 2021, is taking advantage of the satellite companies’ early clearing of the band to access its full C-band spectrum holdings.

Earlier this week, Verizon announced it now has access to the total amount of 5G C-band spectrum awarded at auction. Verizon was by far the biggest spender in the auction, pledging more than $52 billion. AT&T was No. 2, spending more than $27 billion for some 1,621 licenses.

Unlike Verizon, AT&T also spent big on the FCC’s 3.45 GHz auction, where Verizon was a no-show. AT&T acquired 1,624 3.45 GHz licenses for more than $9.1 billion.

Subsequently, AT&T has been deploying a combination of C-band and 3.45 GHz across the country, with its 5G network mid-band network now covering more than 175 million people. AT&T’s nationwide 5G network, which includes low-band spectrum, covers about 290 million people.

AT&T said it’s now doubling its available C-band spectrum for deployment. Specifically, AT&T now has access to a minimum 100 megahertz of total mid-band spectrum in the contiguous United States and an average of 120 megahertz nationwide; that’s bandwidth in every available city, or 406 locations in total.

“In the coming months, markets like Denver and Atlanta will see performance improvements as we continue expanding the deployment of our entire licensed C-band spectrum – an average of 80 MHz or more by market,” AT&T stated. “And because our deployed cell site equipment, such as radios, are capable of handling the full bandwidth spectrum load, once a software update is completed, customers will immediately experience a dramatic increase in bandwidth.”

The FCC’s C-Band Transition Order set a deadline to clear the spectrum by December 2023 but offered incentive payments to satellite operators if cleared early. Last week, SES announced that the FCC had validated its Phase II relocation activities, meaning it’s eligible to receive an accelerated relocation payment of $2.99 billion in the fourth quarter.

Earlier this week, Intelsat announced that with its validated certification now complete, it will receive nearly $3.7 billion in the fourth quarter for clearing out of the C-band early.