Licensed and unlicensed spectrum both have their place in the wireless world. Licensed spectrum is what networks are built upon, the backbone of a network that carriers can rely on and plan their network buildout and upgrades around. Licensed spectrum being available in great quantity is what carriers are banking on to continue expanding their networks to meet demand, and to roll out 5G in the fairly near future. Unlicensed spectrum, on the other hand, is used for newer technologies like LTE-U and the Internet of Things. Unlicensed spectrum is inherently unstable; anybody can draw on it at any time, making it a great booster due to its sheer size and scale, but bad for services that need constant connectivity. Currently, the amount of unlicensed spectrum in the US exceeds the available amount of licensed spectrum. T-Mobile is asking the FCC to change that.
To be specific, T-Mobile is asking the FCC to make some changes to its rules regarding the licensing and distribution of spectrum bands above 24 GHz. According to T-Mobile, in the recent freeing up of some millimeter-wave spectrum, the kind most useful for 5G, less than 4 GHz was made available in licensed form, and of that, only a small part was set to be auctioned to all takers; most of it was already earmarked for the big dogs. The unlicensed side of the coin, however, saw just above 7 GHz of spectrum come available.
T-Mobile recognizes not only that unlicensed spectrum is important, but that they are currently one of the top users of the technology in the wireless industry. Nonetheless, they have noted that a balance should be struck, making more licensed spectrum available for more mission-critical and heavy-use scenarios. The current FCC spectrum auction is being met with a somewhat lukewarm reception, and the freeing up of the millimeter wave spectrum in question has not helped all that much. T-Mobile is asking for the FCC to designate some of the spectrum in the 37-37.6 GHz area and the 64-71 GHz area to be designated for licensed use and auctioned off, opening up the opportunity for network operators to get their hands on more of the stuff that their core networks run on.