To help meet demand during the coronavirus pandemic, the FCC has granted a 60-day Special Temporary Authority to T-Mobile to use additional spectrum in the 600 MHz band from Dish Network, Comcast, NewLevel, LB License Co, Channel 51, Omega, Bluewater, and TStar License Holdings. The additional spectrum effectively doubles T-Mobile’s capacity nationwide in the band.
T-Mobile requested the authority, which will give capacity, to meet users’ wireless needs as they participate in telehealth, distance learning, and telework, and engage in “social distancing.”
“Now, more than ever, as school and workplace closures are happening each day, reliable internet connectivity is crucial,” the company said in a prepared text. “Today we are stepping up to take measures that will ensure that ALL current T-Mobile customers on plans that currently have data are provided the unlimited connectivity they need to learn and work.”
T-Mobile is increasing the data allowance for free up 20 20 GB to schools and students using its “EmpowerED” digital learning program, which is designed to narrow the digital divide by providing wireless devices and service plans to eligible schools and their students.
Dish Network announced on March 13 that it is providing its entire portfolio of 600 MHz spectrum to T-Mobile at no cost for 60 days.
“Dish is proud to support Americans’ personal and professional connectivity needs during this challenging time,” said Jeff Blum, DISH SVP of public policy and government affairs. “As we take this step, we’d like to thank the FCC for their leadership on the technological needs arising as a result of the virus, including the increased need for broadband access to help consumers respond to the impact of COVID-19 on daily life.”
This is the latest step in FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s initiative, in partnership with the private sector, to keep Americans connected during the coronavirus outbreak. On Friday, Chairman Pai launched the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, in which 69 broadband and telephone providers across the country agreed to take specific steps to help Americans stay connected for the next 60 days.
“The FCC is dedicated to helping Americans work from home, learn at home, and connect remotely to health care professionals during this crisis,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “I would like to thank T-Mobile for launching this effort. This temporary authority will help T-Mobile better serve customers who, like all of us, are making significant adjustments to their daily lives to minimize in-person interactions and slow the spread of COVID-19. In the days ahead, I look forward to taking additional actions, in partnership with the private sector, to Keep Americans Connected.”
The spectrum that T-Mobile will use was held either in FCC inventory or by other licensees that have consented to T-Mobile’s temporary use of the spectrum.
600 MHz Spectrum Play a ‘Genius’ Move — New Street Research
T-Mobile may use the spectrum to help the public get through this health crisis, but gaining access to the spectrum could help the carrier’s spectrum position, according to Jonathan Chaplin, analyst, New Street Research.
“It will be interesting to see what T-Mobile does with the borrowed 600 MHz after sixty days; they are using it for free now; presumably they would have to pay for it after the first sixty days; but it could make sense for both sides if they do (could be an important win for Dish),” Chaplin wrote. “[Access the additional spectrum] will help accelerate the transition of Sprint subs to the T-Mobile network, which could help accelerate synergy capture. We assume they shut down the Sprint network in mid-2023 and capture the bulk of network synergies then; it could happen sooner.