T-Mobile is Still Waiting to Get Valuable Wireless Spectrum, and Has Even Offered to Bargain For It




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T-Mobile posts its quarterly results.

T-Mobile has been waiting for more than a year to get its hands on a swath of spectrum it spent $304 million to get — valuable radio airwaves that could expand its 5G home internet service and widen its wireless coverage. But the wait has dragged on so long that the wireless carrier is trying to negotiate to speed up the process.

The nation’s second-largest wireless carrier has offered to sell or swap away radio airwaves it owns in Hawaii “in order to expedite the issuance of 2.5 Ghz licenses,” according to a letter sent by Edward Smith, senior vice president of policy and government affairs for T-Mobile, to the Federal Communications Commission, the agency responsible for doling them out.

T-Mobile has argued that the spectrum will provide a large boost to its service because it fills in coverage gaps throughout the nation — particularly in rural communities. Having the additional capacity would not only improve the speed and coverage of its mobile network, but allow it to offer 5G home internet service in more places. The extra spectrum is akin to adding an extra lane or two along a highway.

Despite winning the 2022 auction to obtain the 2.5 Ghz spectrum, the company was largely stuck in limbo in 2023 thanks to procedural slip ups in Congress that resulted in the FCC losing its ability to actually grant licenses. It wasn’t until Congress passed the Spectrum Authority Licensing Enforcement Act in December that the FCC temporarily regained the power to give T-Mobile its spectrum.

But the process is held up by a 90-day review process, and T-Mobile is trying to speed things up by offering its spectrum assets in Hawaii.

A spokesperson for the FCC wasn’t immediately available to comment on the review process. T-Mobile declined to comment beyond the FCC letter.

The company has previously said it could deploy the 2.5 Ghz spectrum quickly because it doesn’t need to add any new hardware to support it. It would only need to update the software in its radios to take advantage of the new capacity.

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