With wireless use set to spike as more people work from home during the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic, wireless spectrum holders are working together to most efficiently use the available spectrum. That has led carriers and spectrum holders to temporarily put competition aside and enter wireless spectrum lending arrangements.
The goal is to expand voice, video and data capacity where it is needed as work, as education and as commerce shifts to the home from the office, school and store.
The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is routinely expediting approval of the required special temporary authority (STA) requests. Telecompetitor reported Monday that Dish Network and at least six other spectrum holders are loaning T-Mobile 600 MHz spectrum for 60 days. T-Mobile also expanded roaming access to Sprint subscribers to its network.
In addition to Dish, carriers loaning spectrum to T-Mobile are Bluewater, Channel 51, Comcast, Grain Management affiliate NewLevel, LB Holdings and Omega Wireless. Tstar License Holdings also was added, with that news coming in a separate press release, which came from the FCC.
Wireless Spectrum Lending Spreads
Other carriers are active as well. The latest spectrum move includes AT&T borrowing 20 MHz of AWS-4 (Band 66) from Dish as well as Dish’s entire 700 MHz holdings for 60 days.
U.S. Cellular also is bulking up. It will use AWS-3 band spectrum controlled by Advantage Spectrum for 60 days. The extra capacity will be aimed at U.S. Cellular subscribers in California, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.
Verizon is now active as well. Yesterday, the FCC said it has granted an STA to the carrier for use of AWS-3 Band spectrum from Northstar Wireless LLC and SNR Wireless CompanyCo for 60 days. The spectrum will be used across the country.
T-Mobile may be the most aggressive in using other carriers’ spectrum. CEO John Legere said in a message to subscribers that the temporary agreements with other carriers will deliver a 58% increase in its 600 MHz spectrum capacity.
Light Reading’s Mike Dano reported on an analysis from LightShed Partners on T-Mobile’s strategy. The firm backs up the level of expansion claimed by Legere. “Dish’s spectrum alone should triple T-Mobile’s current LTE deployments on 600MHz in most markets,” according to a quote from LightShed in Dano’s story. “That should provide a major uplift in capacity and speed for T-Mobile users.”
T-Mobile told Telecompetitor that the new spectrum can be integrated remotely.
The idea of country before company has caught on quickly. A quote in the press release announcing the AT&T/DISH agreement by DISH senior vice president of public policy and government affairs Jeff Blum was typical of the new and clearly temporary cooperative spirit. “DISH is proud to join forces with AT&T to achieve a common, critical goal: supporting the connectivity needs of Americans during this challenging time. Enhancing our nation’s wireless networks helps give Americans the bandwidth they need to work, learn, and check-in on loved ones, and is especially crucial for those customers without other sources of broadband.”
FCC actions in response to COVID-19 have also included giving landline carriers greater capability to temporarily expand services to schools and healthcare institutions at no charge.