T-Mobile announced yesterday it is partnering with Fox television stations in order to move up the timeline for those stations to repack the 600 MHz spectrum they broadcast over. For those who aren't well-versed in spectrum lingo, repacking is a process that frees up a currently occupied frequency of the broadcast spectrum by moving stations to other frequencies. In this case, the agreement means that stations like WWOR-TV, a Fox station in the New York City area, will repack up to 16 months sooner than initially planned. That original plan was in accordance with an FCC deadline – August 2019 – and should save tens of millions of dollars of the Incentive Auction Relocation fund, according to the carrier's announcement. The fund is generally used to provide funding, within reason, to businesses in radio, television, and similar areas of technology, that are required to move off of a set spectrum to another, at the official request of the FCC.
The reason the FCC's is repacking the 600 MHz spectrum is so that wireless providers can make use of it. Obviously, in the case of the Fox WWOR-TV partnership, the move affects spectrum for the New York City area more directly. Viewers of the channel, meanwhile, shouldn't be too concerned about losing their programming. Neville Ray, CTO of T-Mobile, says that the deal will allow more spectrum to be cleared up more quickly, while still preserving broadcast programming for over 19 million or more WWOR-TV watchers. That should allow for enhanced wireless coverage and a substantial increase in terms of capacity for that area, as the mobile operator continues its drive to make use of the 600 MHz spectrum for its own wireless networks, following tests the company began over the summer.
This particular repacking of network spectrum is actually part of a much larger effort from the FCC and is one that T-Mobile has already been helping to speed up, prior to the new Fox deal. Earlier in 2017, in June, the mobile provider revealed a similar joint project in partnership with PBS and America's Public Television Stations which pushed to move signal translators away from 600 MHz to a new band of spectrum, with a more generalized focus on rural areas.