This afternoon, T-Mobile's ardent CEO John Legere announced the results of the FCC's recent spectrum auction concerning the low-band 600MHz range. In a $7.99 Billion deal, T-Mobile is set to gain 45% of all of the low-band spectrum being auctioned.
T-Mobile is quick to point out that the spectrum they purchased covers 100% of the United States and Puerto Rico, with a nationwide average of 31 MHz of spectrum acquired. Having this wide of a range of spectrum available nationwide will help T-Mobile with their rollout of Carrier Aggregation, on the road to Gigabit-Class LTE and 5G.
This acquisition wasn't without help from the FCC however. In 2014, when the FCC decided to auction off the spectrum that was previously used for broadcast TV, they decided to set aside 30MHz of the available 70MHz specifically for carriers that did not currently have large holdings in low-band spectrum. This means that ATT and Verizon, who both operate large LTE networks in the 700MHz range were excluded from part of the spectrum being auctioned off.
Low-band spectrum in strategically important for LTE rollouts in particular as it can travel further and works better indoors than high-band offerings like Sprint's large available spectrum in the 2.5GHz
While it usually takes a significant amount of time to see the results of newly acquired spectrum, T-Mobile promises significant network expansion by the end of 2017. Legere claims that over 1,000,000 square miles of the newly acquires spectrum will be cleared for use by the FCC by the end of this year, and put into production by T-Mobile. T-Mobile plans to use this spectrum to both expand LTE coverage into new markets as well as strengthening their coverage in existing markets to provide more speed and greater density of coverage.
However, there is one side of the 600MHz equation that is out of the hands of T-Mobile, the user equipment. Currently, there are no shipping LTE radios capable of operating in the 600MHz range. Qualcomm has announced that their in-development X20 LTE modem will work with 600MHz, but we have no timeline as to a possible release of devices with the X20.
Hopefully, we don't have to wait too long for user devices capable of 600MHz LTE operation, it would be a real shame to have a newly expanded T-Mobile network that no one can connect to!
The road to Gigabit-class LTE and subsequently 5G seems to be a fierce one, and we look forward to seeing developments from competing carriers.