Sprint could be one major benefactor if the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moves ahead with a proposed overhaul of rules in the 2.5GHz band.
At its next monthly meeting (in May), the FCC is set to vote on a measure which would open up a swathe of the 2.5GHz band currently reserved for the Educational Broadcast Service (EBS) for commercial use.
Currently, the commission said, large portions of the 114MHz EBS band are unused across about half of the US, mainly in rural areas. Enabling more flexible use of these airwaves will “facilitate improved access to next generation wireless broadband, including 5G, for both educational and commercial uses,” it stated.
Specifically, the FCC wants to make changes to current EBS licence areas; open a filing portal to accept applications for unused licences; and make any licences still unassigned following the first two steps available for commercial use through an auction.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai explained in a blog post: “We would consider new opportunities for educational entities and Tribal Nations to gain access to this spectrum on a first-come, first-serve basis in places where they have a local presence and can best serve their communities. And we would open up the remaining 2.5GHz spectrum for auction to anyone, including commercial entities, on a flexible-use basis.”
Implications for Sprint
The proceeding is promising for Sprint, which already holds a massive 160MHz chunk of 2.5GHz spectrum in the top 100 US markets. CTO John Saw claimed in a blog post this huge bandwidth makes Sprint one of the only operators in the world capable of running LTE and 5G simultaneously on the same radios.
A Sprint representative told Mobile World Live the operator “fully support[s]” the FCC’s effort to overhaul the 2.5GHz band, noting “adoption of new licensing opportunities for EBS licensees will further strengthen Sprint’s existing 4G LTE and future 5G deployments, benefitting customers as well as Sprint’s EBS partners”.
Sprint previously said it’s aiming to launch mobile 5G in the first half of 2019.