T-Mobile urges FCC to deny Aeronet petitions for 70/80 GHz bands

Citing the need for high-speed backhaul for the nation’s mobile broadband ecosystem, T-Mobile is urging the FCC to deny petitions by Aeronet Global Communications, which wants to see rule changes for the 70/80 GHz and 92-95 GHz bands to allow the use of maritime and aviation scheduled dynamic datalinks (SDDLs).

“While T-Mobile acknowledges that there may be consumer desire for additional in-air and at-sea connectivity, there are competing needs that must be considered,” T-Mobile told the commission (PDF). “Should the Commission initiate a rulemaking to consider the additional uses of the 70/80 GHz bands that Aeronet proposes, it must consider all potential uses of the band, including effective, extensive wireless backhaul and potential mobile service.”

The nation’s third-largest wireless carrier noted that Aviat Networks and CBF Networks, d/b/a Fastback Networks, have submitted requests for waivers of the rules governing the 70/80 GHz bands—requests that T-Mobile has supported—to better support 5G backhaul while the FCC’s wireless backhaul proceeding moves forward. It also suggested that the 70/80 GHz bands could be allocated for licensed mobile use in the future.

Alternatively, if the commission doesn’t deny Aeronet’s petitions, it should defer consideration and consolidate all proposals for use of the 70/80 GHz bands into a comprehensive proceeding, T-Mobile said.

Clearly, backhaul is on the mind of the “un-carrier.” In response to suggestions by the Rural Wireless Association (RWA) and C-Spire that T-Mobile lacks sufficient backhaul capacity in rural areas to support T-Mobile’s current represented coverage and speeds as well as New T-Mobile’s 5G plans, the operator submitted this week a heavily redacted filing (PDF) to the FCC disputing those points.

“Contrary to these assertions, T-Mobile presently has substantial high-speed backhaul capabilities for its rural facilities, and has concrete plans in place to further increase bandwidth to meet the performance requirements of the New T-Mobile network,” T-Mobile wrote.

The Bellevue, Washington-based carrier told the commission how many of its rural sites have high-speed backhaul as of January 2019, but the figures are redacted for confidentiality reasons. The same goes for the number of sites currently using microwave backhaul and awaiting contracted fiber build-out.

Interestingly, T-Mobile did say it has future-proofed its backhaul to handle the performance requirements of New T-Mobile with scalable/upgradable solutions and contractual arrangements already in place.

RELATED: New T-Mobile will be in the market for more spectrum: Legere

T-Mobile CEO John Legere faced critics of the company's plan to merge with Sprint during a House antitrust subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, where RWA was among the opponents providing testimony. RWA is concerned that its members won’t get good roaming rates with the new T-Mobile—Sprint historically has worked with rural carriers on fair roaming agreements while T-Mobile’s roaming rates are said to be 20 times higher than Sprint’s, according to RWA members.

Precision agriculture and remote healthcare require low latency, and those kinds of services cannot rely on satellite and microwave for backhaul due to their high latency; fiber must be deployed and acquiring Sprint will not give T-Mobile the fiber it needs for 5G in rural areas, according to Carri Bennet, RWA’s general counsel, who testified at the hearing.