What is next for Millimeter Wave Spectrum? Auction, Clear, Re-band,... February 26, 2018 17:39
Things are beginning to clear up now that we have the settlement between FiberTower and the FCC, which eliminated an average of 121 MHz of 24GHz spectrum that FiberTower could have provided to AT&T but FiberTower did provide AT&T most of the active and terminated licenses they wanted in the 39GHz band.
With Chairman Pai's comments at MWC 2018, it is clear that the FCC is targeting a 28-31GHz auction by the end of the year. This makes the most sense, since the ownership of the LMDS band is more "clean" than the 39GHz. Looking at the CMA Market Analysis from our Millimeter Wave - Spectrum Ownership Analysis Tool we can see that most of the spectrum that is in the FCC's hands is the LMDS B block (31,000 to 31,075MHz) and (31,225 to 31,300MHz). It appears that 150MHz of spectrum will be available in 23 of the Top 75 CMA markets. In addition, LMDS A block spectrum (1150Mz) will be available in 15 of the Top 100 CMA markets.
Chairman Pai's comment that 24GHz will be the second auction, also makes sense because the settlement with FiberTower cleared the 24GHz band except in a few western markets including parts of Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and California. This spectrum is currently licensed as 2 - 40MHz channels so these channels don't match up to the new band plan for 100 MHz channels.
It is unknown when the FCC will be able to auction the new 37GHz band with the remaining spectrum held in the 39GHz band. Below is a county-level view of the ownership of this band from the Spectrum Grid Module in our Millimeter Wave - Spectrum Ownership Analysis Tool. You can see the spectrum blocks controlled by the FCC in grey along with the spectrum that Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile each control. These channel allocations need to be shifted so that carriers own 200MHz contiguous blocks to match the new 37/39GHz band plan.
Looking at this same counties in our County Analysis module for Spectrum Depth, you can see that each carriers allotments aren't always in 200MHz increments which are the channel sizes for the new combined 37/39GHz. The carriers will have to figure out a plan to shift their holdings into 200MHz channels and the FCC will have to deal with fractional channel blocks and fractional counties, since the 39GHz licenses include rectangular licenses that overlap county boundaries.