T-Mobile US renewed industry calls for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to auction off mmWave spectrum allocated for 5G within the year.

In a filing with the FCC, T-Mobile urged the commission to collectively auction spectrum set aside for mobile 5G use in the 24GHz, 28GHz, 37GHz, 39GHz, and 47GHz bands sometime in the 2018 timeframe. The operator argued auctioning all the bands together will “result in a more robust and competitive auction”.

The filing renewed calls for a 2018 auction following similar requests from several industry players including AT&T.

Late in 2017, AT&T pressed the commission to hold an auction for 28GHz and 37GHz to 40GHz spectrum by December 2018. AT&T said an auction in the timeframe would coincide with the planned commercial availability of 5G chipsets and equipment, and allow operators to deploy their 5G networks as quickly as possible.

However, FCC chairman Ajit Pai in October warned future spectrum auctions are on hold indefinitely until the commission can find a way to comply with a law related to how upfront payments from bidders are held.

FiberTower spectrum
T-Mobile had another request for the FCC: to include FiberTower’s trove of 24GHz and 39GHz licences in any mmWave auction rather than letting the company sell them to AT&T as planned in a deal penned in January 2017.

“The commission correctly determined that FiberTower failed to meet its construction requirements despite many opportunities, including extensions of time. Reinstating those licences would be inconsistent with the commission’s obligation to ensure that spectrum is put to productive use and would undermine its ability to enforce its performance requirements.”

T-Mobile’s argument echoes one made by the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), which represents small and rural operators in the US (T-Mobile is one of its members). In 2017, CCA called on the FCC to block AT&T’s FiberTower deal and auction off those mmWave licences instead.

“Allowing one of the nation’s dominant carriers to obtain 650 terminated licences at potentially less than market value would harm competition, the economy, and most importantly, consumers,” CCA CEO Steven Berry contended.