T-Mobile and NBC-owned station NBC 5 / KXAS-TV have agreed to accelerate the repacking of the station’s 600 MHz spectrum in North Texas and surrounding areas. NBC 5/KXAS-TV, which serves the Dallas/Fort-Worth area, will move to its new frequency in late May 2018, more than a year earlier than the FCC deadline of June 21, 2019. The agreement allows NBC 5 to transition to its new frequency and maximize its coverage area earlier than anticipated. This agreement also enables T-Mobile to enhance LTE coverage and capacity in the area more quickly, with wireless signals that travel twice as far and work four times better in buildings than mid-band spectrum.
“T-Mobile is proud to collaborate with broadcasters, like NBC 5, as they transition to new frequencies,” said Neville Ray, Chief Technology Officer at T-Mobile. “We’re keeping our foot on the gas to add 600 MHz to our LTE network as quickly as possible, giving customers even more capacity and coverage while laying the foundation for 5G.”
The agreement is part of T-Mobile’s broader commitment to work with broadcasters occupying 600 MHz spectrum to assist them in moving to new frequencies and to accelerate the process of freeing up the spectrum for new and expanded wireless services across the country. Last year, T-Mobile announced similar partnerships to assist other stations in their moves to new airwaves.
“We are pleased to work with T-Mobile and transition to our new frequency assignment one year ahead of schedule,” added Tom Ehlmann, President and General Manager, NBC 5. “We will be informing viewers about the transition on-air, on our website, and through social media in the coming months.”
The agreement accelerates the Un-carrier’s rollout of 600 MHz Extended Range LTE, which travels twice as far and works four times better in buildings than mid-band, to cities in North Texas including Paris, Sulphur Springs, Tyler, Waco and Wichita Falls, as well as surrounding areas including Ardmore and Durant, Oklahoma. And these cities are already covered with T-Mobile’s LTE-Advanced network. T-Mobile’s nationwide LTE network covers 322 million people – nearly everyone in the US.
With characteristic bravado, T-Mobile began lighting up its 600 MHz LTE network in August, switching on a Nokia transmitter on a rooftop in Cheyenne, Wyoming. T-Mobile’s 600 MHz LTE network rollout will initially be in rural America and other markets where the spectrum is already clear of broadcasting. By the end of the year, an additional 600 MHz sites are slated for locations in Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, western North Dakota, Maine, coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia and Eastern Washington.
Jennifer Fritzsche: The broadcast incentive auction will supply T-Mobile ample low-band spectrum at a reasonable price and will open door for a possible merger. Our sense is discussions with tower operators to help with 600 MHz spectrum deployment are already ongoing. We do not see [T-Mobile] capital investment on this spectrum band to go into slowdown mode – even if a [Sprint / T-Mobile] merger is announced.
Ron Bizick: T-Mobile has been very aggressive in acquiring spectrum positions, which will lead to the need for new towers, as well as locating on existing towers. They fully intend to be competitive with AT&T and Verizon. That’s great for the tower industry.
With characteristic bravado, T-Mobile has begun lighting up its 600 MHz LTE network, switching on a Nokia transmitter on a rooftop in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
T-Mobile’s 600 MHz LTE network rollout will initially be in rural America and other markets where the spectrum is already clear of broadcasting. Those deployments and other network upgrades will increase T-Mobile’s total LTE coverage from 315 million Americans today to 321 million.
By the end of the year, an additional 600 MHz sites are slated for locations in Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, western North Dakota, Maine, coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia and Eastern Washington.
In an ex parte meeting with FCC personnel, T-Mobile officials said they expect to have at least 10 megahertz of 600 MHz spectrum ready for deployment across “more than one million square miles” by the end of this year, including “hundreds of thousands of square miles” of rural areas.
T-Mo CTO Neville Ray applauded the speed of the deployment effort in the 600 MHz frequencies.
“This team broke every record in the books with the speed of our 700 MHz LTE deployment, and we’re doing it again. T-Mobile is effectively executing in six months what would normally be a two-year process,” said Ray said. “We won’t stop … and we won’t slow down!”
The operator is using “low-band” spectrum won in the government broadcast incentive auction concluded earlier this year, and yesterday’s announcement came two months after the carrier received its spectrum licenses from the FCC.
The speed of T-Mobile’s rollout is no accident. In February 2016, T-Mobile, in conjunction with Broadcast Tower Technologies and Hammett & Edison, set out a plan to maximize the resources needed to move the TV broadcasters from the band and rollout the needed technology.
T-Mobile worked with Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung and LG to ensure the right transmitter and handset technology would be available when the rollout began. It is also collaborating with the FCC and broadcasters such as the Public Broadcasting System to quickly clear the spectrum.
Moreover, T-Mobile worked with Electronics Research to make sure that adequate broadcast antennas and installation crews would be available for the TV stations’ move to new spectrum. Antenna production capacity was increased by 800 percent by the end of 2016, and production began at the end of the auction when new channels were assigned to broadcasters.
Additionally, T-Mobile went above and beyond the FCC’s spectrum clearing requirements of the auction winner, committing to pay for new low-power facilities used by local public television stations that are required to relocate to new broadcasting frequencies because of the auction.
J. Sharpe Smith is senior editor of the AGL eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.
March 8, 216 — The National Association of Broadcasters is 100 percent committed to the upcoming TV auction. We are working with Congress and the FCC to promote a successful broadcast spectrum incentive auction, advocating for stations that choose to participate and those that do not.
We expect robust participation from our members.
We’re working in bipartisan fashion with Congress to ensure that the repacking timeline that will result in a shrunken swath of spectrum set aside for TV broadcasting is realistic.
The FCC has set a 39-month window for relocating — or repacking — channels after the spectrum incentive auction, but by all accounts, this timeframe is simply not realistic. We also will insist that no broadcaster is forced to pay out of pocket for the privilege of staying in business after the repack.
Congress set aside $1.75 billion in the Television Broadcaster Relocation Fund to cover reasonable costs necessary to relocate to new channel assignments after the auction. But our best engineers say that number is too low. In fact, it may be as much as $1 billion short. So, we will work with Congress to make sure that is the fund is sufficient to compensate broadcasters for their moves.
Post auction, we may be smaller as an industry, but broadcast television will be even more relevant than we are today.
Everyone wants what we have — our airwaves. But none of our competitors want the same responsibilities that come with being a broadcaster.
It’s worth noting that none of the Internet service providers that buy broadcast spectrum in the upcoming auction will be offering program content to the masses free of charge, which is what public and commercial TV stations do every day.
Nor will the programming be local. A lot of people enjoy catching a movie or show on Netflix or Amazon Prime, but when was the last time you watched a Snowzilla blizzard covered by Netflix? When was the last time an Amber Alert child was rescued by Amazon?
A public TV station like WHUT — owned by the historical black college Howard University in Washington, D.C. — provides immeasurable value in our nation’s capital. Indeed, one could argue that there is no “higher and better use of spectrum” than serving diverse audiences with free and local TV programming for all citizens, and not just to those who can just afford a pay TV package.
We must ensure that diverse audiences are served in a post-auction world. The FCC has an important role to play here. However, the agency has proposed gifting some channels to big companies like Google and Microsoft. Not only could this hurt rural and diverse audiences, but it also sends a clear message to Google that they don’t have to participate in the auction to secure spectrum.
And let’s be clear that none of our friends in the broadband world want public interest obligations that come with being a broadcaster. Nor do they want decency standards that commercial and public broadcasters abide by. Indeed, the business model of most ISPs would collapse under decency rules that local radio and TV broadcasters not only endure, but have embraced.
We will continue to work towards a successful auction that ensures that the broadcast industry not only survives, but thrives after the auction.
Americans deserve, and desire, what broadcasters deliver.
Gordon Smith is president of the National Association of Broadcasters. This article contains excerpts of remarks he made at the Association of Public Television Stations Public Media Summit on the future of broadcasting on Feb. 22 in Washington.