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AT&T Challenges T-Mobile and SpaceX Satellite Partnership: Interference and Spectrum Allocation Issues

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AT&T has filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aiming to halt T-Mobile US’s plan to use SpaceX satellite services to enhance its mobile network coverage. According to the filing, AT&T is citing potential interference issues and the violation of spectrum allocation rules as reasons to block T-Mobile’s proposed use of SpaceX’s satellites.

In its filing, AT&T states that the FCC’s rules do not allow SpaceX’s proposed use of T-Mobile’s terrestrial spectrum, and the applicants fail to request or justify necessary rule waivers for their proposed supplemental coverage from space (SCS) authorizations. AT&T describes the technical showings of SpaceX and T-Mobile’s applications as “woefully insufficient” in evaluating the risk of harmful interference caused by their planned SCS deployments.

Last August, T-Mobile revealed its intention to work with SpaceX to address coverage gaps in its US network, particularly targeting hard-to-reach remote areas. The collaboration seeks to create a new network using T-Mobile’s mid-band spectrum and SpaceX’s Starlink satellites to deliver satellite-to-cellular services with extensive coverage.

Meanwhile, AT&T has also entered a partnership with AST SpaceMobile to accomplish a similar goal—boosting cellular network coverage through low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. It was involved in AST SpaceMobile’s most significant testing milestone when a direct voice call was successfully carried out between the US and Japan via its LEO satellite constellation using AT&T spectrum.

In its FCC filing, AT&T cites its trials with AST SpaceMobile as an indication of its commitment to ensuring non-interference with authorized terrestrial systems. The filing implies that AT&T and AST SpaceMobile are following the rules while also pointing out the reported lack of progress in T-Mobile and SpaceX’s deployment so far.

The motivation for AT&T filing the petition might be a genuine concern about its rival’s rollout plans. As a holder of adjacent broadband PCS C Block spectrum, AT&T has a vested interest in the matter. However, it is more plausible that AT&T is utilizing every method within its power to get ahead in this competitive sector. The first mobile operator to provide efficient coverage in hard-to-reach areas will have the upper hand when it comes to attracting customers.

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