T-Mobile May Finally Get Valuable 5G Spectrum It Bought Thanks to Proposed Senate Bill




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T-Mobile posts its quarterly results.

T-Mobile has been patiently waiting for $304 million worth of spectrum licenses that it purchased in last year’s Federal Communications Commission auction, radio airwaves it can’t get its hands on because of a political and technical battle raging in Washington D.C. A new proposed Senate bill may help the carrier get around the regulatory red tape.

Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, on Thursday introduced the 5G Spectrum Authority Licensing Enforcement (SALE) Act. The proposed bill (see the full language here) would give the FCC temporary authority to dole out those licenses purchased in the previous auction. Kennedy’s legislation would grant the agency one-time authority to dole out licenses purchased in auctions that were held before March 9.

The bill would get around a messy situation in Congress and with the Defense Department and National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which needed more time to conduct a test of potential interference. That delay, and the Senate’s failure to approve an extension to the FCC’s authority over spectrum auctions, meant the agency lost its authority to grant licenses for the first time in 30 years.

Those licenses are the key for carriers like T-Mobile to further build out its network, particularly in rural communities. That’s why Kennedy is taking up this issue.

“Louisiana’s economy relies on small business, and small businesses rely on broadband,” he said in a statement. “Currently, bureaucratic red tape is standing in the way of Louisianians’ wireless communications. 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,” said Kennedy. 

The radio airwaves purchased from the FCC’s Auction 108 run in the 2.5 gigahertz frequency, which offer a sweet compromise in both range and speed, and would be key to expanding cover of T-Mobile’s 5G network.

There’s bipartisan support to give the FCC back its authority, but because the extension lapsed, Congress will have to pass a new bill. There’s already one proposed in the House, but it will still take a while before it can pass.

It’s unclear if Kennedy’s bill would move any quicker through the Senate, but at least lawmakers are making moves to free up the spectrum.

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