We often think of 4G and 3G networks as something that are just there, things that are easily put together and just simply work to get the Internet into your phone. The reality is much different however, as there are all sorts of things that carriers and networks need to go through in order to get a network up and running and even more to keep on adding capacity and infrastructure. Building new radio towers and masts is one thing, but the fuel of all these networks has always been spectrum, without the rights to broadcast over certain wavelengths, networks end up with little to work with when it comes to expanding coverage and keeping up their speeds. This is where spectrum auctions come in.
As with everything wireless in the US, the FCC oversee the sale of spectrum, or more specifically the right to broadcast over a certain wavelength or portion of a certain wavelength. While private sales between firms – such as the purchase of 700 Mhz by T-Mobile from Verizon last year – are all fine and well, new spectrum or spectrum that is being repurposed is handled by the FCC. The big deal right now in the spectrum market is the upcoming auction of 600 Mhz spectrum, currently held by TV broadcasters across the country. Soon, networks such as T-Mobile and Verizon will be able to bid on portions of the 600 Mhz spectrum a sizeable 126 Mhz portion of it, but that's not the whole story. Once the spectrum is purchased it needs to be repackaged for a different use, and the FCC have created a 39-month timeframe to repackage the spectrum, but T-Mobile feels like they might be done much sooner.
Using the example of the 700 Mhz spectrum they purchased for over $2.0 Billion from Verizon, which T-Mobile managed to roll out and make use of within one year, T-Mobile is poised to make the most of the new 600 Mhz spectrum. T-Mobile's CFO, Braxton Carter, recently said during an investor's meeting that "we've demonstrated that we can do it; we've demonstrated that working with the OEMs both on the infrastructure side and the handset side that we can drive the ecosystem really quickly." It's not just T-Mobile however, their device partners will have hardware ready in 2017 to take advantage of the 600 Mhz spectrum that T-Mobile are hoping to secure during the auction, and with more spectrum will come a better network in the long run.