The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave US Cellular the green light to temporarily tap into spectrum held by a third party, as the operator looks to meet increased demand for mobile broadband in states hardest hit by Covid-19 (coronavirus).

US Cellular was granted access to AWS-3 airwaves licensed to Advantage Spectrum for 60 days to provide additional capacity to customers in parts of California, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.

The operator holds a majority stake in Advantage Spectrum through its subsidiary USCC Wireless Investment, but does not have sole control of the company.

A US Cellular representative told Mobile World Live (MWL) the move is part of a “proactive” effort to “avoid network congestion in some of our markets”.

Washington and California are among the states with the highest number of confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 708 and 369 respectively, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showed.

Earlier this week, the FCC cleared T-Mobile US to tap into additional 600MHz spectrum licensed to several broadcast companies to boost the operator’s capacity at a time of heightened demand.

Larger rival Verizon separately told MWL it doesn’t yet have plans to seek a similar arrangement, with a representative noting it was yet to experience capacity issues which would require it to seek access to additional spectrum.

An AT&T representative said its network “continues to perform well,” noting the operator had actually seen “fewer spikes in wireless usage around particular cell towers or particular times of day” in some locations, as more people work from home and avoid gathering in large crowds as a precaution against the virus.