T-Mobile presses FCC to change 3.5 GHz framework to better align with 5G global requirements

T-Mobile USA’s top executives recently met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, as well as Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Mignon Clyburn and their legal advisors, urging the FCC to promptly complete the licensing process for its 600 MHz licenses so that it can deploy 5G and LTE service on the spectrum as soon as possible.

The "Un-carrier" also took the opportunity to thank the commission for its efforts to identify additional licensed spectrum in its pending Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, but noted that the existing 3.5 GHz framework should be revised “because the current structure will not drive investment” and doesn’t align with international use of the band for 5G.

“We explained that the 3.5 GHz spectrum is a core band for 5G deployment around the world and that the U.S. will miss a huge opportunity if it doesn’t create a structure aligned with global 5G requirements,” the company said in an ex parte filing.

The company’s desire to see the 3.5 GHz rules get changed isn’t new. The carrier told FierceWirelessTech in a statement last month that the current rules for licensing the CBRS band should be revisited to create more certainty and align with 5G requirements globally.

CBRS, which stands for Citizens Broadband Radio Services, was created as a three-tiered system that includes unlicensed and licensed users, with an auction for the licensed usage to occur sometime in the future. CBRS Alliance members have been making progress to get the new ecosystem up and running and through the FCC certification process. While it’s not known how deep any rule changes might go, a lot of CBRS stakeholders don't want to see the FCC change the rules at this juncture.

All four big U.S. wireless operators also are members of the CBRS Alliance, along with founding members Google/Alphabet, Federated Wireless, Nokia, Qualcomm, Intel and Ruckus, with Ericsson joining later as a sponsor member. The organization now has more than 40 members.

RELATED: Ruckus, Rise Broadband cite concerns about potential 3.5 GHz CBRS rule changes

Meanwhile, T-Mobile executives apparently believe these and other spectrum issues are important enough to warrant a visit to the FCC. The executives, which included CEO John Legere, CTO Neville Ray, General Counsel Dave Miller, Government Affairs VP Steve Sharkey and Government Affairs SVP Kathleen O’Brien Ham, also recommended the FCC make more licensed spectrum available as part of the Spectrum Frontiers proceeding and that spectrum such as the terminated FiberTower licenses should be returned to the FCC for reauction.

The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), of which T-Mobile is a member, also urged the FCC to auction FiberTower’s 650 licenses that previously were terminated to allow other carriers the opportunity to bid on the licenses and use the spectrum for 5G.

FiberTower holds interests in a total of 738 24 GHz and 39 GHz licenses. Under the proposed deal with AT&T, AT&T would get control of 39 GHz licenses covering about 99.8% of the U.S. population, according to a preliminary FCC review.

As for the recently completed 600 MHz auction where T-Mobile was the top bidder, T-Mobile executives told the FCC that it is working cooperatively with the broadcasting community to ensure there are sufficient resources available for a successful transition. But they also urged the chairman and commissioners to hold broadcasters to the 39-month timeframe set forth in the rules.

T-Mobile is the first company to commit to building a nationwide 5G network, and it will use the 600 MHz band, as well as 200 MHz of spectrum in the 28/39 GHz bands, to deploy 5G, which will include low-, mid- and high-band spectrum.

Rather than focusing on fixed wireless, the Bellevue, Washington-based operator expects to see a new class of applications and solutions that will be built for nationwide 5G.