T-Mobile is purchasing approximately 1,150MHz of LMDS millimeter-wave spectrum covering Ohio, the wireless carrier disclosed in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission. The portfolio encompassed by the deal is meant to strengthen the telecom giant’s 5G push, with the company stating that it intends to leverage the spectrum range between 27,500MHz and 28,350MHz in order to offer next-generation wireless connectivity to the state. T-Mobile’s 5G plans are less reliant on mmWave spectrum compared to those of Verizon and AT&T as the company’s holdings in the segment are still relatively slim relative to the portfolios boasted by its rivals, which is why its 5G network of the future is also expected to partially rely on its 600MHz holdings.
The Bellevue, Washington-based company is still seeking to add to its mmWave licenses and has already urged the FCC to auction them off as quickly as possible before its rivals gain an even larger lead through their efforts to acquire such holdings in the secondary markets. The firm’s own rare foray into the secondary spectrum market has yet to be detailed and its value remains undisclosed. Its general 5G plans haven’t changed, with the wireless carrier targeting nationwide coverage in 2020 following a more limited rollout next year. AT&T is claiming it will already have an operational 5G network in select U.S. cities in late 2018, whereas both Sprint and Verizon are planning to start large-scale deployment in early 2019, though the latter will also launch a fixed wireless access service in partnership with Samsung in the second half of the current year.
Some analysts remain unconvinced T-Mobile is looking to use the newly acquired spectrum to deploy a 5G service and is instead seeking to trade it in exchange for a portion of Verizon’s 39GHz holdings as the company is still understood to be striving to deploy a next-generation network on a single band. T-Mobile was previously critical of the viability of high-band spectrum, arguing that mmWave 5G requires millions of small cell stations that make nationwide coverage an unfeasible strategy. The company has yet to elaborate on its latest move in any capacity, with its currently official 5G plans still being focused on low-band spectrum.