T-Mobile recently attended a gathering of wireless industry figureheads at the White House to talk about 5G and came away from the experience with a new plan for spectrum in the 3.5GHz range to bolster the emerging technology that it would like the FCC to consider. T-Mobile's idea centers around the argument that the focus on high-band spectrum in current 5G talks should be shifted to a universal approach incorporating spectrum bands all across the board. While high-band millimeter wave spectrum delivers high capacity and speed, it doesn't travel well, so T-Mobile wants to use 3.5GHz spectrum as the middle ground to bridge the higher-band spectrum and lower-band one, such as its own 600MHz portfolio won in the recent FCC auction. In order to implement this plan, T-Mobile is asking the FCC to rework the current rules which break up spectrum in that area and make it difficult for wireless providers to take advantage of it.
Under the current licensing, a number of players own 3.5GHz spectrum in various bands, with little room for other mobile service providers to use the bands between for LTE-U, let alone obtain licenses. The rules surrounding said licensing don't do much to cater to the needs of the wireless industry, which is what T-Mobile wants to change. While those in charge largely recognize that mid-band and low-band spectrum is just as important as high-band spectrum in the big picture with 5G development and deployment, concrete plans on how to make the spectrum more mobile-friendly are still in the air. One major suggestion from T-Mobile is an auction of spectrum in the 3.5GHz area.
At the center of the proceedings is the MOBILE NOW legislation, a bill that would rework spectrum licensing laws and laws surrounding the use of unlicensed spectrum to make way for 5G and make the wireless landscape a bit friendlier toward mobile providers looking to build 5G networks. Some key highlights of the bill include asking that at least 255MHz of the spectrum below the 6GHz line be made available for 5G use, with at least 100Mhz kept unlicensed, and 100MHz earmarked specifically for 5G licensure. The bill would see the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the FCC working together to develop a competent spectrum distribution plan, though it remains to be seen whether it eventually comes into force.