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Spectrum Blog

2.5GHz Tribal Boundary Applications...Significant Progress Made Tue, Jan 11, 2022

In our December month-end review of open FCC transactions, we saw significant progress from the FCC in the processing the EBS tribal applications.  56 of the pending transactions were granted, reducing the remaining pending applications to 40. 

FCC Tribal Application Status

Status
5/5/2021
10/31/2021
12/31/2021
Granted
201
273
329
Pending
175
94
40
Inactive/Withdrawn
7
5
Dismissed
18
20
20
Total
394
394
394

 


EBS Spectrum Control Maps Mon, Nov 01, 2021

In our most recent blog post, we highlighted the challenges faced by T-Mobile in two markets where they don't control parts of the EBS spectrum (channels), that limit their deployment of large 5G channels across each urban market.  Where that post focused on the effects of owning or not owning a specific channel across a geography, the EBS Spectrum Control Maps below provide a more general look at the percent of EBS spectrum that T-Mobile owns, the FCC owns, and Other Carriers own.  To complete this analysis we used the MHz-POPs analysis from our EBS Auction Tool, combined with our analysis of T-Mobile's EBS MHz-POPs using the same geographic licensing database.  

While these maps provide insights on the EBS band in totality, the individual issues faced by T-Mobile in Orange County, CA don't strongly appear in these maps because they control all of the EBS channels except the G channels meaning they still control a high percentage of the EBS spectrum in Orange County.    For the Chicago market, the whitespace EBS challenges can be seen  with Lake County receiving a light green and McHenry receiving an orange.


Deficiencies of T-Mobile’s 2.5GHz Spectrum Tue, Oct 26, 2021

Recent discussions around the wireless industry have included opining on why T-Mobile acquired 40MHz of C-band spectrum when they control so much 2.5GHz spectrum.  Although the 2.5GHz spectrum is a valuable spectrum asset, there are two challenges to this spectrum that are not well understood by the industry and we believe that T-Mobile’s C-band purchases were a strategic purchase to provide a path to overcome these two spectrum licensing limitations.

License Areas Controlled by the FCC:

The first limitation is unlicensed or whitespace areas in core urban markets. To highlight these areas, we are going to start with some whitespace analysis that we have developed as part of our EBS Auction Tool.  In this analysis, the percentage of the population that is available in the whitespace area is indicated for each EBS channel in a county.  We have also calculated the percentage of the population that is contained with T-Mobile license area and the percentage of the population that is contained within the license area of any other carrier. In the image below we are showing the percentage of the population under T-Mobile’s control and under the FCC control (whitespace) for the entire 2.5GHz frequency band including both the EBS and BRS channels.  The color ranges start at 0% with red, 50% with yellow, and 100% with green.  In our initial analysis we will be focusing on the first auction channel (black box) in the six counties that make up the Chicago CMA market.  We prefer to use the CMA market structure to evaluate urban areas because they include only the most populated counties in each urban area.

2.5GHz Full-band Population Percentage View (Chicago):

2.5GHz – 1st EBS Auction Channel Population Percentage View (Chicago):

           
Chicago CMA Counties:

In the top section of the chart above, it is apparent that T-Mobile controls all of the 1st EBS Auction channel in Cook, DuPage, and Will counties but they only control all of the A1-A2-A3 channels in Kane County.  Fortunately, the parts of 1st EBS Auction channel that they don’t own will be available in the Auction 108.  The available whitespace is indicated in the lower half of the chart.  Looking at McHenry County, 100% of the C1-C2 channels will be available in the EBS Auction (108).

These charts highlights the percentage of the population available either for T-Mobile’s licenses or for the FCC’s whitespace.  Next we will look at the geographic constraints of T-Mobile’s licenses and the shape of each county’s whitespace area.  In the map below we are able to show the license areas for the A1-A2-A3 channels because the license areas of interest are identical.  It is apparent that T-Mobile has the rights to operate the A1-A2-A3 channels completely across the counties in the Chicago CMA except Lake and McHenry.

Licensing Map – A1-A2-A3 (Chicago):

Looking at the B1-B2-B3 & C3 channels, a whitespace area exists covering almost all of Kane County along with similar whitespace areas in McHenry and Lake counties.

Licensing Map – B1-B2-B3 & C3 (Chicago):

Our final map delineates the largest limitations to the areas that T-Mobile can deploy the C1-C2 channels in the Chicago CMA market.  Their base stations located in the gray areas of Kane, Lake, and McHenry counties cannot use the C1-C2 channels.  

Licensing Map – C1-C2 (Chicago):

Looking again at the T-Mobile’s control of the 1st EBS auction channel we can highlight the deployment limitations that the whitespace area presents.  Since the 1st Auction channel is 49.5MHz, this chart indicates that T-Mobile can deploy roughly a 50MHz channel on any sites in Cook, DuPage, and Will counties.  In Kane County they are limited to a 15MHz channel in the available 16.5MHz of spectrum.  To have a consistent deployment of a 50MHz channel across Chicago, they would need to purchase the whitespaces areas for each of these channels in each of the Chicago counties.

 

 

 

Looking again at the T-Mobile’s control of the 1st EBS auction channel we can highlight the deployment limitations that the whitespace area presents.  Since the 1st Auction channel is 49.5MHz, this chart indicates that T-Mobile can deploy roughly a 50MHz channel on any sites in Cook, DuPage, and Will counties.  In Kane County they are limited to a 15MHz channel in the available 16.5MHz of spectrum.  To have a consistent deployment of a 50MHz channel across Chicago, they would need to purchase the whitespaces areas for each of these channels in each of the Chicago counties.

The last perspective that we want to share on the Chicago market is the actual population in each of the whitespace areas for each county. Although we thought that 100% of the population was available for each channel in Cook County, the whitespace population table indicates that there is a very small population and small geographic area that is a whitespace within Cook County for the B1-B2-B3-C1-C2-C3 channels.

2.5GHz – 1st EBS Auction Channel Population View - Whitespace (Chicago):

License Areas Controlled by Other Carriers:

The second limitation is spectrum blocks that are controlled by other carriers in core urban markets. To highlight these areas we are going to look at the four counties in the Los Angeles CMA market.  For the Population Percentage Chart below, we are including the population percentage for other carriers rather than the whitespace percentages.

2.5GHz Full-band Population Percentage View (Los Angeles):

2.5GHz – 3rd EBS Auction Channel Population Percentage View (Los Angeles):

In the Top View it is apparent that T-Mobile already controls the spectrum across all of the BRS channels (gray) in Los Angeles County but they are missing roughly 10% of the population for the G1-G2-G3 channels. In between the two BRS blocks of spectrum are the K guard band channels.  The ownership of these guard band channels mirrors the ownership of the primary channel e.g. G1=KG1.    The BRS channels and the EBS G1-G2-G3 channels total to 87MHz of spectrum, providing T-Mobile the ability to deploy an 80MHz NR channel throughout most of Los Angeles County.  Unfortunately in Orange County, another carrier owns 98% of the G1-G2-G3 channels limiting T-Mobile to a 10MHz channel in the first BRS block (F4-E4) and a 50MHz channel in the second BRS block  (BRS2-E123-F123-H123).  

Los Angeles CMA Counties:

In looking at the G1-G2-G3 licensing map, you can see that there are actually three licenses that T-Mobile does not control in the Los Angeles CMA Market.

Licensing Map – G1-G2-G3:

 2.5GHz – 3rd Auction Channel Population View – Other Carriers (Los Angeles):

 

The Other Carriers Population percentage view indicates the large licensed population that is controlled by other carriers and would need to be purchased by T-Mobile.

Conclusion:

With these two examples we have shown that missing 2.5GHz spectrum either due to it being unlicensed or being controlled by another carrier present challenges that likely limit T-Mobile’s largest 5G channel size to a subset of each urban market.  We believe that T-Mobile’s participation in the C-band and the current 3.45GHz auction was to “future” proof their ability to offer large channel sizes in the upper mid-band spectrum.  With either the C-band spectrum or the 3.45GHz spectrum, T-Mobile could use carrier aggregation to achieve 100MHz effective channel sizes even in areas where their 2.5GHz spectrum is more limited.


Status Check on EBS Tribal Applications Mon, May 03, 2021

Today was the cutoff for comments on the EBS Whitespace Auction procedures, so let's take a look at the current status of the EBS Tribal applications, which have a priority on claiming EBS white space.  From the chart below, 44% of the applications are still in process.  Most concerning are the 83 applications that have been filed but have not seen any action by the FCC.  Typically applications are moved to a pending status within a few weeks but these applications have been on file since 3Q - 2020.

Tribal Applications Status
Filed 394
Granted 201
Pending 92
Dismissed 18
No Action 83

 

Below is a map of the granted tribal boundaries overlaid with the EBS A1 channel license areas.  Each of these tribal applications has requested access to the first EBS auction channel (49.5MHz).  Any tribal areas that extend into these license areas will not have access to the A1 channel (5.5MHz) in the overlap area.

 


Auction 108 LIcense Inventory - Alabama Mon, Feb 22, 2021

Attachment A
Auction 108 License Inventory Subject to the Results of the Rural Tribal Priority Window
Proposed Bidding Units, Upfront Payments, and Minimum Bids
State/
Territory
County Name FIPS
Code
Channel Item ID Band-
width
MEA Population
(2010)
Subject to Small Market Cap Bidding
Units
Upfront
Payment
Minimum
Bid
AL Autauga 1001 1 AL-001-1 49.5 24 54,571 Yes 80 $8,000 $10,000
AL Autauga 1001 2 AL-001-2 50.5 24 54,571 Yes 80 $8,000 $10,000
AL Autauga 1001 3 AL-001-3 16.5 24 54,571 Yes 20 $2,000 $5,000
AL Baldwin 1003 1 AL-003-1 49.5 27 182,265 No 200 $20,000 $50,000
AL Baldwin 1003 2 AL-003-2 50.5 27 182,265 No 200 $20,000 $50,000
AL Baldwin 1003 3 AL-003-3 16.5 27 182,265 No 90 $9,000 $10,000
AL Barbour 1005 1 AL-005-1 49.5 24 27,457 Yes 40 $4,000 $8,000
AL Barbour 1005 2 AL-005-2 50.5 24 27,457 Yes 40 $4,000 $8,000
AL Barbour 1005 3 AL-005-3 16.5 24 27,457 Yes 10 $1,000 $2,000
AL Bibb 1007 1 AL-007-1 49.5 24 22,915 Yes 30 $3,000 $6,000
AL Bibb 1007 2 AL-007-2 50.5 24 22,915 Yes 30 $3,000 $6,000
AL Bibb 1007 3 AL-007-3 16.5 24 22,915 Yes 10 $1,000 $2,000
AL Blount 1009 1 AL-009-1 49.5 24 57,322 Yes 80 $8,000 $10,000
AL Blount 1009 2 AL-009-2 50.5 24 57,322 Yes 80 $8,000 $10,000
AL Blount 1009 3 AL-009-3 16.5 24 57,322 Yes 20 $2,000 $5,000
AL Bullock 1011 1 AL-011-1 49.5 24 10,914 Yes 10 $1,000 $3,000
AL Bullock 1011 2 AL-011-2 50.5 24 10,914 Yes 10 $1,000 $3,000
AL Bullock 1011 3 AL-011-3 16.5 24 10,914 Yes 5 $500 $1,000
AL Butler 1013 1 AL-013-1 49.5 24 20,947 Yes 30 $3,000 $6,000
AL Butler 1013 2 AL-013-2 50.5 24 20,947 Yes 30 $3,000 $6,000
AL Butler 1013 3 AL-013-3 16.5 24 20,947 Yes 10 $1,000 $2,000
AL Chambers 1017 2 AL-017-2 50.5 8 34,215 Yes 50 $5,000 $10,000
AL Cherokee 1019 1 AL-019-1 49.5 8 25,989 Yes 30 $3,000 $7,000
AL Cherokee 1019 2 AL-019-2 50.5 8 25,989 Yes 30 $3,000 $7,000
AL Cherokee 1019 3 AL-019-3 16.5 8 25,989 Yes 10 $1,000 $2,000
AL Chilton 1021 1 AL-021-1 49.5 24 43,643 Yes 60 $6,000 $10,000
AL Chilton 1021 2 AL-021-2 50.5 24 43,643 Yes 60 $6,000 $10,000
AL Chilton 1021 3 AL-021-3 16.5 24 43,643 Yes 20 $2,000 $4,000
AL Choctaw 1023 1 AL-023-1 49.5 26 13,859 Yes 20 $2,000 $4,000
AL Choctaw 1023 2 AL-023-2 50.5 26 13,859 Yes 20 $2,000 $4,000
AL Choctaw 1023 3 AL-023-3 16.5 26 13,859 Yes 6 $600 $1,000
AL Clarke 1025 1 AL-025-1 49.5 27 25,833 No 30 $3,000 $7,000
AL Clarke 1025 2 AL-025-2 50.5 27 25,833 No 30 $3,000 $7,000
AL Clarke 1025 3 AL-025-3 16.5 27 25,833 No 10 $1,000 $2,000
AL Clay 1027 1 AL-027-1 49.5 8 13,932 Yes 20 $2,000 $4,000
AL Clay 1027 2 AL-027-2 50.5 8 13,932 Yes 20 $2,000 $4,000
AL Clay 1027 3 AL-027-3 16.5 8 13,932 Yes 6 $600 $1,000
AL Cleburne 1029 2 AL-029-2 50.5 8 14,972 Yes 20 $2,000 $4,000
AL Coffee 1031 1 AL-031-1 49.5 24 49,948 Yes 70 $7,000 $10,000
AL Coffee 1031 2 AL-031-2 50.5 24 49,948 Yes 70 $7,000 $10,000
AL Coffee 1031 3 AL-031-3 16.5 24 49,948 Yes 20 $2,000 $4,000
AL Conecuh 1035 1 AL-035-1 49.5 27 13,228 No 10 $1,000 $3,000
AL Conecuh 1035 2 AL-035-2 50.5 27 13,228 No 10 $1,000 $3,000
AL Conecuh 1035 3 AL-035-3 16.5 27 13,228 No 6 $600 $1,000
AL Coosa 1037 1 AL-037-1 49.5 8 11,539 Yes 10 $1,000 $3,000
AL Coosa 1037 2 AL-037-2 50.5 8 11,539 Yes 10 $1,000 $3,000
AL Coosa 1037 3 AL-037-3 16.5 8 11,539 Yes 5 $500 $1,000
AL Covington 1039 1 AL-039-1 49.5 24 37,765 Yes 50 $5,000 $10,000
AL Covington 1039 2 AL-039-2 50.5 24 37,765 Yes 50 $5,000 $10,000
AL Covington 1039 3 AL-039-3 16.5 24 37,765 Yes 10 $1,000 $3,000
AL Crenshaw 1041 1 AL-041-1 49.5 24 13,906 Yes 20 $2,000 $4,000
AL Crenshaw 1041 2 AL-041-2 50.5 24 13,906 Yes 20 $2,000 $4,000
AL Crenshaw 1041 3 AL-041-3 16.5 24 13,906 Yes 6 $600 $1,000
AL Cullman 1043 1 AL-043-1 49.5 24 80,406 Yes 100 $10,000 $20,000
AL Cullman 1043 2 AL-043-2 50.5 24 80,406 Yes 100 $10,000 $20,000
AL Cullman 1043 3 AL-043-3 16.5 24 80,406 Yes 30 $3,000 $7,000
AL Dale 1045 1 AL-045-1 49.5 24 50,251 Yes 70 $7,000 $10,000
AL Dale 1045 2 AL-045-2 50.5 24 50,251 Yes 70 $7,000 $10,000
AL Dale 1045 3 AL-045-3 16.5 24 50,251 Yes 20 $2,000 $4,000
AL Dallas 1047 1 AL-047-1 49.5 24 43,820 Yes 60 $6,000 $10,000
AL Dallas 1047 2 AL-047-2 50.5 24 43,820 Yes 60 $6,000 $10,000
AL Dallas 1047 3 AL-047-3 16.5 24 43,820 Yes 20 $2,000 $4,000

Evaluating Potential Markets - EBS Whitespace Auction Primer | 2.5GHz (3 of 3) Tue, Oct 06, 2020

In August, we had blog post that discussed the counties that are on the EBS band plan and the way that the EBS license areas were determined.  In this post we are going to examine how to use our EBS Whitespace Auction Opportunities Tool.

The EBS Whitespace Auction Opportunities Tool provides carriers, telephone companies, internet service providers (ISP), cable companies, investors, and financial analysts with the tools to evaluate the opportunities in this auction.

As we discussed before, this auction will provide the winner's access to 3 wide band channels in the EBS (2.5GHz) band.  One channels is 49.5 MHz, one channel is 50.5 MHz, and one channel is a combined 17.5 MHz.  In the images below, we indicate how each of the existing EBS channels (A1,A2,..) are component channels in the larger wide band EBS Auction channels.

EBS Auction Channel 1:

EBS Auction Channel 2:

EBS Auction Channel 3:

The population that a bidder can serve is determined by the unlicensed population for each of the component channels within each EBS auction channel.

Below is an example of two counties in West Virginia where 100% of the county population is available for each component channel in the EBS Auction Channel 1.  In our EBS Whitespace Auction Opportunities Tool this is seen in the Spectrum Grid (% POPs) worksheet.  The percentage of the available unlicensed population is divided by the full county population.

Population Percentage Worksheet:

The second worksheet in the EBS Whitespace Auction Opportunities Tool provides the discrete available unlicensed population for each component channel as well as total MHz-POPs for the entire EBS Auction Channel. 

Population Worksheet:

Our next example is a Nevada county that has varying available whitespace population for each component channel.  In the POPs view immediately below, the available whitespace population for EBS Auction Channel 1 varies from 2,024 for the A1 component channel to 43,872 for the B2 channel.

Population Worksheet:

In the % POPS view, the population comparison to the total county population is highlighted with Red to Green cell colors.  For the A1 component channel, the 2,024 available whitespace POPs represents 4% of the Douglas county population while for the B2 component channel, the 43,872 available whitespace POPs represents 93% of the Douglas county population.

Population Percentage Worksheet:

Available Whitespace Area:

In addition to Population Analysis to each component channel, purchasers of the EBS Whitespace Auction Opportunity Tool also receive access to our EBS Whitespace Mapping module in our Web Spectrum Viewer.  Selecting either the A1 component channel cell for POPS or for % POPs, the whitespace license area map for that component channel is displayed.

A1 Component Channel Whitespace Area:

For the B2 component channel the whitespace license area fills a majority of Douglas county reflecting the 92% population availability.

B2 Component Channel Whitespace Area:

The EBS Whitespace Auction Opportunities Tools is available either as a nationwide purchase (all 50 states and US territories) or a state by state purchase.  The purchase will enable carriers and investors to evaluate their opportunity to add 2.5GHz spectrum in the targeted markets and it will allow investors to quantity the national or state opportunities for these new channels as well as provide an evaluation of the strength or weakness of the existing 2.5GHz licensee in each market.

 

 


Counties on the Wrong Band Plan - EBS Whitespace Auction Primer (1 of 3) Thu, Aug 06, 2020

As the Native American Tribal Window for acquiring unlicensed 2.5GHz spectrum winds down, we felt it would be a good time to begin an education process for the EBS Whitespace Auction through a series of blog posts.  Our first post is focusing on the markets (counties) where the existing licensees are operating a band plan that is incompatible with the established 3 channel auction configuration.  The counties below in red still have EBS licenses that are operating video broadcast systems which utilize what is referred to as the pre-transition band plan.  We posted a blog in 2018 that discussed the transition from the pre-transition band to the post transition band.  This transition was necessary to provide Clearwire, and then Sprint with spectrum free from video interference on which they could deploy LTE.
FCC Pre-transition Band Plan:
As a quick review, the pre-transition band plan interleaved different licenses, e.g. A channels and B channels.  A licensee would typically control all of the A channels (A1, A2, A3, and A4) or the B channels (B1, B2, B3, and B4).
Source: FCC
If the channels haven't been transitioned, you won't have the same individual channel sizes (the video channels were all 6 MHz, while now the A1, A2, and A3 channels are 5.5 MHz), and they can't be grouped to make the same Auction Channels like the 49.5 MHz Channel 1 below.
EBS Auction - Channel 1:
The EBS Auction - Channel 2 is the first place we begin to see the guardband channels that were created in the transition process.  Each of these channels is 0.33 MHz.  For the pre-auction licenses, the owners of the guardband channel JA1) is the owner of the A1 channel in the same geographic area.  Channel 2 below is the 50.5 MHz EBS Auction channel.
EBS Auction - Channel 2:
The final EBS Auction - Channel is the only one that has two discontiguous blocks of spectrum.  It has 1 MHz of spectrum in the KG guardband channels and 16.5 MHz of spectrum in the G channels.
EBS Auction - Channel 3:

2.5 GHz Auction - Great for Rural Markets, Limited for Urban Thu, Aug 01, 2019

In July, the FCC released their report and order for their plans to auction the white space 2.5 GHz spectrum.  Using our Mobile Carrier - Spectrum Ownership Analysis Tool we have created a couple of images to illustrated the auction of the spectrum in a rural county and the auction of spectrum in a urban county.

Our rural example focuses on Wayne County, Iowa.  Wayne County has a population of nearly 6,500.

In the image above, we indicate the primary spectrum ownership for each channel in Wayne, IA.  Sprint is the spectrum owner for all of the BRS (Broadband Radio Service) channels and the FCC is the spectrum owner for all of the EBS (Educational Broadcast Service) channels.  We have highlighted in the Bandwidth row, the different channels the FCC has defined for auction.  The red highlights are for the 49.5MHz channel, the green highlights indicate the channels included in the 50.5MHz channel and the blue highlights indicate the channels included in 17.5MHz channel.  The 17.5MHz channel consists of 3 x 5.5MHz contiguous channels and 3 x 0.33MHz guard band channels.

In the area below each channel we indicate in green, the available population that can be licensed for each channel as a percentage.  Clearly, purchasing any of the 3 channels (49.5, 50.5, 17.5) at auction would provide a carrier with the ability to service 100% of the population with each of the component 2.5GHz channels.

Our urban example focuses on McHenry County, IL.  McHenry County has a population of nearly 310,000.  McHenry County is one of the 6 counties that constitute the Chicago CMA Market.

In the urban example, the carrier that purchases the red (49.5MHz) channel would be able build a network reaching 20% of the population with the A1, A2, and A3 channels (16.5MHz), they would be able to reach 80% of the population with the B1, B2, B3, and C3 channels, and they can reach the entire population with the C1 and C2 channels.  The auction winning carrier will have to coordinate their operations for all but the C1 and C2 channels around the geographic license areas that Sprint already controls.


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