T-Mobile and Sprint aren't planning to jointly participate in the next 5G spectrum auction and instead want to launch bids individually, the former company wrote in an ex parte filing with the Federal Communications Commission submitted earlier this week. The Bellevue, Washington-based firm said it agreed to a number of safeguards meant to guarantee neither party is aware of the other one's immediate plans related to the millimeter-wave spectrum auction which is scheduled to start in November.
The third- and fourth-largest wireless carrier in the United States announced their intentions to merge as part of a $26.5 billion all-stock deal earlier this year but explicitly stated no convergence efforts will start being realized until the tie-up is approved. In practice, that approach led to T-Mobile and Sprint continuing their individual 5G efforts which they claimed were insufficient to viably compete with AT&T and Verizon in their merger pitch. T-Mobile's latest filing with the FCC is meant to convince the federal regulator to allow the company to participate in its mmWave auction this fall, with the wireless carrier arguing doing so will allow the government to maximize the revenue generated by the initiative.
The first mmWave auction in U.S. history may significantly alter the wireless landscape in the country, especially if Sprint and T-Mobile manage to receive regulatory approval for their tie-up, which would likely leave them with more spectrum holdings than they can feasibly put to use in a reasonable timeframe. The first instance of the auction will focus on 28GHz frequency licenses, whereas the second one will offer 24GHz ones. The second mmWave auction meant to license bands 37, 39, and 47 is currently planned to take place in the second half of the next year, with large-scale 5G deployment in the country being likely to already start by that point. Industry analysts remain reluctant to predict the outcome of T-Mobile and Sprint's proposed consolidation, especially as Washington officials are still vague when asked whether they believe the vertical merger that would reduce the number of major competitors in the wireless industry should be approved.