Sen. Kennedy intros bill related to T-Mobile’s 2.5 GHz spectrum

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced a bill — the 5G Spectrum Authority Licensing Enforcement (SALE) Act — to require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to release previously auctioned spectrum. The bill doesn’t specifically mention T-Mobile. But the Seattle-based carrier won 7,156 out of about 8,000 of the 2.5 GHz spectrum licenses in Auction 108 last summer, and it has not been able to obtain access to that spectrum because Congress allowed the FCC’s auction authority to lapse.

Kennedy’s bill says it’s imperative that the FCC process the 2.5 GHz spectrum licenses in order to expand 5G broadband access to rural communities.

The legislation would temporarily grant the FCC auction authority so that it may complete the Auction 108 spectrum transfers.

“Louisiana’s economy relies on small business, and small businesses rely on broadband. Currently, bureaucratic red tape is standing in the way of Louisianians’ wireless communications,” said Kennedy. “My 5G SALE Act offers a simple solution for providing rural Americans with access to broadband by giving the FCC the authority to finish transferring already auctioned spectrum to companies who offer 5G coverage.”

The FCC says that because its auction authority has lapsed, it does not have the legal authority to process the licenses. And Kennedy acknowledges that assessment. His announcement of the 5G SALE Act said, “During the period between when companies paid for their licenses and when the FCC should have parceled the licenses out, Congress failed to reauthorize the FCC’s ability to auction off licenses altogether. Now, each company that bought spectrum in that auction is waiting to receive its transfer. Despite payments being complete, the FCC says it no longer has the authority to grant those licenses.”

Kennedy’s legislation would grant the FCC a one-time, temporary authority to issue licenses purchased in auctions that were held before March 9, 2023, the date when the FCC’s Congressional authorization ended.

In a research note this morning, Blair Levin, the regulatory analyst at New Street Research wrote, “We don’t think the legislation is likely to pass. We think the more likely outcome is a reauthorization of the FCC’s auction authority at the end of the year.”

It is curious to note that Sen. Kennedy introduced a bill to give special authority to the FCC to assist T-Mobile with its 2.5 GHz spectrum licenses, when he could just as well have introduced a bill to reauthorize the FCC's full auction authority.