The Federal Communications Commission has temporarily granted T-Mobile US special access to more of the 600 MHz band, to help meet increased demand for mobile broadband by consumers and first responders during the ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
T-Mobile US said that it wanted the additional bandwidth to meet customer demand and make it easier for Americans to use telehealth services, distance learning and to do telework during the coronavirus crisis, in which “social distancing” or self-quarantine is a major piece of the strategy to slow the spread of the virus and keep hospital systems from being overwhelmed. T-Mo also told the FCC that the use of the spectrum will help it meet the communications needs of first responders during the pandemic.
The FCC granted the carrier use of the spectrum for 60 days under Special Temporary Authority, which is often used for experimental testing but can also be invoked in times of natural disasters or other emergencies. T-Mobile US will be using 600 MHz spectrum which was either held by the FCC, or which is held by other entities who have given T-Mo permission to use those airwaves temporarily.
T-Mobile US had previously been granted permission for a two-year period to test 5G New Radio across a broader swath of 600 MHz spectrum than it had licenses for, in areas of Los Angeles, California; Dallas, Texas; Seattle, Washington; and Las Vegas, Nevada. This was an expansion of existing test occurring in unused 600 MHz spectrum in Los Angeles. The spectrum in use for those tests was between 617-652 MHz and 663-698 MHz.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that the temporary measure “will help T-Mobile better serve customers who, like all of us, are making significant adjustments to their daily lives to minimize in-person interactions and slow the spread of COVID-19. In the days ahead, I look forward to taking additional actions, in partnership with the private sector, to keep Americans connected.”