T-Mobile recently filed claims with the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, stating that Dish has no plans to utilize all of its wireless spectrum holdings and its wireless plans are no more than a bid to hoard valuable spectrum assets, FierceWireless reports. More directly, the carrier asserted that Dish's proposal for building out an NB-IoT network would utilize less than 2-percent of its mid-band spectrum holdings. That would, the company said, not only be in stark contrast to the rules set forth by the FCC with regard to the use of spectrum holdings. It would also be in direct conflict with a recent memorandum put forward by the Trump administration, which called for more spectrum to be freed up in support of expanding 5G networks more rapidly. By comparison, T-Mobile says, its own use of spectrum highlights that consumer demand is high and that it is growing, in spite of Dish's allegedly inadequate plans. More directly, the company points to its recent report about the deployment of 600MHz Extended Range LTE in 1,254 cities across 36 states and Puerto Rico.
Background: T-Mobile and Dish have been at odds since the former company first revealed its intention to acquire the current number four US operator, Sprint. The merger would place a massive amount of spectrum at the carrier's disposal and Dish, for one, has vehemently argued against the merger. That opposition has included Dish's own filings with the FCC, urging the agency to take a closer look at the deal and to not approve it on the basis that it would stifle competition. As things currently stand, according to information given by Macquarie Capital this month, Dish holds almost as much spectrum as T-Mobile. That would make the claims particularly serious if they are found to be true since that would indicate that Dish is holding onto quite a lot of bandwidth without actually using it. Meanwhile, Dish was recently reported to be under scrutiny by the FCC with the organization questioning the provider on its planned use of spectrum, leading up to T-Mobile's filing.
Dish had rebutted the claims and the concerns from the FCC by stating that it plans to roll out its NB-IoT network in 2020 and will spend approximately $1 billion on the build-out. It has also since responded to T-Mobile by stating that the carrier has been aware of its plan since at least 2017 and that its build-out meets the FCC's requirements for the use of spectrum holdings. Although that doesn't address T-Mobile's claims that its project will only utilize around 2-percent of its holdings, Dish has also proposed a massive new 5G-only mobile network. That could cost the company an investment of around $10 billion and result in around 50,000 towers, placing Dish on par with its competitors but with a direct focus on only offering 5G services without the baggage of legacy technologies. There's no date set for that, however, with Dish simply referring to that portion of its network rollout as "phase two". So it may or may not be the case that T-Mobile is correct in asserting that the company won't be using its spectrum within a reasonable timeframe.
Impact: Bearing all of that in mind, even if stipulations on how much of Sprint's spectrum could be used by the company are enacted in the merger, T-Mobile would gain a lot of advantages from the transaction. Sprint currently holds the largest amount of spectrum in the US. On the other hand, T-Mobile has been actively pursuing still more spectrum and there's no guarantee that the merger will be allowed. Regardless of the veracity of the claims, the current situation between Dish and T-Mobile will likely remain volatile at very least until after some decision is reached by the FCC with regard to the T-Mobile and Sprint merger.