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T-Mobile’s 5G Impact: Balance in Spectrum Usage Needed

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Fixed wireless service providers in Maine, New York, and Maryland are pointing fingers at T-Mobile due to disruptions in their operations, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing by one of the providers. Bloosurf, a Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) provider that operates in the Delmarva Peninsula, claimed that T-Mobile’s 5G services are interfering with its network and customers.

In its filing, Bloosurf requested the FCC to make T-Mobile pause its 5G functions in areas where it overlaps with Bloosurf’s operations and reconsider the granting of T-Mobile’s Auction 108 licenses. Interestingly, these licenses, awarded in 2022, provided access to spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band.

The matter is further complicated by a precedent set by an FCC Memorandum Opinion and Order from 1977, quoted in Bloosurf’s application. It dictates that ‘newcomers’ to a service area are financially liable for eliminating any objectionable interference.

Bloosurf’s statement on March 28 reveals that the company’s efforts for cooperative testing with T-Mobile have been sabotaged by a lack of meaningful cooperation from T-Mobile. Thus, direct action from the FCC has been sought. The filing also insisted for their prior informal complaint to be reinstated, with actions undertaken to eliminate the said interference. However, Bloosurf’s initial complaint was dismissed by the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau on valid procedural grounds.

Bloosurf is not alone in its grievances. Other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have expressed similar concerns. The CEO of Redzone Wireless, for example, complained about losing customers due to alleged interference from T-Mobile’s 5G network. An official report also spotlighted how T-Mobile’s 5G network hampered parts of provider NextWave’s New York network.

In the midst of these complaints, T-Mobile has continued its efforts to gain additional spectrum licenses in the 2.5 GHz band. Through its comments to the FCC, the telecom giant has hinted at the possibility of quick access to the spectrum if the FCC could approve the use of Special Temporary Authority (STA) to release spectrum, approve spectrum-sharing, or lease spectrum licenses.

Nonetheless, in March 2023, Congress decided not to renew the FCC’s authority to conduct spectrum auctions. Since the FCC lost its auction authority, T-Mobile has not been able to access the licenses won during Auction 108. While Congress did instruct the FCC to release the auction winnings, it did not reinstate broader authority, leaving T-Mobile and other companies in a challenging situation.

As we move forward, it’s vital to strike a balance that ensures efficient spectrum usage while maintaining the integrity and stability of various providers’ networks. The FCC’s decisive role in solving such interference issues and managing spectrum allocation is indeed crucial to fulfill public interest.

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