T-Mobile: FCC Should Mandate Fast-Track C-Band Relocation

Wireless carrier T-Mobile has told the FCC that it has the power to require incumbent C-band satellite operators to relocate on an accelerated basis after an FCC auction, that it should exercise that authority, and if the incumbents don't do so voluntarily, the FCC should force them to. 

Related: Pai Says C-Band Item Will Be on February Meeting Agenda 

That is according to a just-released document detailing the request. 

"T-Mobile joins others in urging the Commission to employ its authority under the Communications Act of 1934 (“Act”) to require, as a condition of receiving a license, that winning bidders pay incumbent license holders to voluntarily relocate their current C-band operations on an accelerated basis," the company told the commission. 

The FCC plans to vote at its February meeting on a plan to auction 280 MHz of C-band spectrum for 5G, an auction it expects to hold, or at least start, by the end of the year. 

T-Mobile appears to support the spirit of a C-Band Alliance (CBA) request that the FCC make compensating satellite operators a condition of bidding on the spectrum. CBA comprises the major satellite companies who are giving up that licensed spectrum. 

But unlike CBA, which said the incentive payment should be determined by the ultimate value of the auctioned spectrum, T-Mobile wants both the moving expense and incentive payment determined prior to auction, though it suggested that could include satellite estimates of what the spectrum would bring at auction, as well as "the risks associated with an expedited transition," and other factors.  

That incentive payment would include both covering moving expenses and an incentive payment for moving quickly. FCC chairman Ajit Pai would not comment Thursday (Jan. 30) on whether the FCC item would include an incentive payment, as some reports have indicated. 

A new Senate bill mandating a C-band auction has such a payment, but capped at $1 billion, which CBA has indicated is clearly insufficient given the investment they have made and the likely value of the 280 MHz, which it said could be as much as $77 billion

T-Mobile put a sting in the tail of its proposal to incentivize, and thus accelerate, voluntary early exits. "[O]nce relocation is complete—or at the end of the specified transition period, whether or not all incumbents have voluntarily relocated as required to collect acceleration payments—the Commission would modify the incumbent operators’ licenses to clear the spectrum for use by the auction winners."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.