In my most recent post on the filed FCC Transactions for February 2017 there were over 275 call signs that were assigned to new licensees and nearly 100 call signs that were leased. In an industry driven by spectrum, these changes affect the operations for every wireless carrier, they change site interference, and they affect the channels that are programmed into private repeaters and DAS systems.
So how can your company stay on top of the changes that may affect your markets. Allnet Insights' publishes a National Carrier Spectrum Depth Report which details the spectrum held by Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Dish, and USCellular in the Top 100 Cellular Market Areas (CMA). We report both the spectrum that each carrier currently holds (Current Holdings) and the spectrum they will hold in the future (Future Holdings) based on pending FCC transactions. Reporting on both current and future holdings enables Allnet Insights' to also report on the changes between current and future holdings which highlight the location and quantity of spectrum that is changing hands.
Below is a screenshot of the 11th through the 25th most populated CMA markets in our February 2017 report. This highlights the markets where the national carriers are either increasing or decreasing their spectrum holdings. In the Excel report you can reveal specific holdings by frequency bands that are changing but for this post, we will stay with the total spectrum view. From this view, you can see that in San Diego, T-Mobile is increasing their held spectrum by 5MHz while AT&T is decreasing their held spectrum by 5MHz. The reverse is happening in the Sacramento CMA.
We also highlight the spectrum that is changing hands in our Web Spectrum Viewer. In the Spectrum Grid menu, we lower case the 3 letter carrier code to indicate that the carrier ownership is changing from the current to the future. Looking at the same San Diego market (San Diego County) you can see (tmo) on the PCS B6 spectrum. Since this screen shot is of the Future Holdings, T-Mobile is will control this spectrum in the future.
The screen shot below is of the San Diego County Current Holdings. (att) in the PCS B6 column indicates that AT&T is the current operator of the B6 channel.
For Sacramento (Placer, Sacramento, and Yolo Counties), we can see that AT&T will be the future operator of the PCS B11 channel and that T-Mobile will be the carrier giving up the PCS B11 channel.
My last example is in Tucson, AZ. From the National Carriers Report we can see that T-Mobile is increasing their held spectrum by 10MHz.
From the Web Spectrum Viewer, it is clear that T-Mobile is receiving the PCS A10 and A11 channels from Commnet (cmm).
In this blog post I am going to explore how Sprint can configure their PCS spectrum for LTE using Allnet Insights' Mobile Carrier Spectrum Ownership Analysis Tool. As a review Sprint's initial LTE deployment utilized a 5 MHz PCS G Block channel. In the map below I have determined the maximum channel size for spectrum that is contiguous with Sprint's initial LTE channel. In Seattle, Sprint can expand their initial channel to a 10MHz LTE channel while in Las Vegas Sprint can expand their initial channel to a 20MHz channel.
Looking at the Las Vegas market area with Allnet Insights' Spectrum Grid Module, you can see the specific channels Sprint controls in each county. For Clark County, Sprint controls all of the C block channels along with the G block. Unfortunately for Sprint, they can't use the entire 20MHz for LTE since they still need PCS spectrum for their CDMA voice service. In Esmeralda County Sprint has 15MHz of spectrum including the G block that should be configured for LTE with 10MHz of the A block channels available for CDMA voice.
The map below details the largest channel size of PCS spectrum that Sprint controls aside from the spectrum contiguous with the G block. This is the spectrum that can be shared with CDMA voice and could also be deployed in Sprint's FDD-LTE carrier aggregation scheme.
As I was completing my research for an upcoming blog on LTE Carrier Aggregation, I found that my previous LTE Band Class reference sheet was missing some of the more recent Band Class updates, so I decided to share my new reference document with a few comments.FDD Band Classes:
The first notable band class addition in Band 30. This band class creates a definition for FDD operation in the WCS (2.3GHz) band which was previously defined only for TDD operation.
From the Spectrum Grid view of the Spectrum Ownership and Analysis Tool, you can see that Band 30 does not include the 5MHz channels that AT&T purchased to essentially become guard bands for the Satellite Audio guys. This will provide AT&T with a 10x10 LTE channel on a market by market basis, as they resolve the remaining ownership issues in the WCS band.
The next two band classes are not new, but I previously skipped over these band classes because I didn't fully understand their frequency breaks.Band 26
Previously I thought this was a specific band for Sprint IDEN operation that is adjacent to the cellular band. This is the band where Sprint is placing their 2nd LTE channel (5 MHz) and a CDMA channel (1.23 MHz). Looking at the frequencies in detail, the band class covers the IDEN spectrum and the adjacent cellular spectrum.
This is similar to Sprint's Band 25 which includes all of the PCS band plus their G block spectrum (but not the H block).
So you would think that all of the North American carriers could standardize to Band 25 for PCS operation and Band 26 for Cellular. Using the latest iPhone 5s LTE band support,
you can see the Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T iPhone's support Band 2 and 25 for PCS, but only the cellular band (Band 5). Sprint iPhone 5s includes,
both Band 2 and 25 for PCS and Band 5 and 26 for cellular.
This is referenced as the AWS extended band and you can note from above that it is not currently applied to smartphones like the iPhone 5s. This band class seems to be a preparation for the future use of the AWS-2 and AWS-3 spectrum and the government shared use band that are both adjacent to the existing AWS spectrum band. Here is how the downlink looks in the Spectrum Ownership Analysis Tool:
Note that Band 10 does not cover the entire band contemplated for AWS-3, nor does it include Dish's Band 23. For the uplink:
This again depicts that Band 10 is not currently set to include the entire shared government opportunity.
TDD Band Classes:
Here is the reference sheet the TDD band classes.
On this reference sheet I hadn't looked closely at band classes 35, 36, and 37. I had always focused on the 2.3GHz and 2.5GHz as the only bands that were designated for TDD support in North America. These three band classes create 140MHz block of spectrum that could be for TDD deployment. Here is how these bands appear in the Spectrum Ownership Analysis Tool:
I'm not sure what the history is on these band classes, but they would support TDD operation in both the PCS uplink and downlink bands as well as in the 20 MHz between the bands. Since the PCS frequencies are highly deployed, I would consider it very unlikely to see TDD systems in this band in the near future, and I doubt that the PCS band is authorized for TDD operation. It will be interesting to see whether any of the wireless carriers begin to look this direction. With Sprint stepping out of the H block auction, they seem to be signalling that TDD operation is more important to them and the Band 37 block (including Sprint's G block) could be the reason why Dish is pushing forward in the H block auction. Please comment if you are aware why the 3GPP has included these 3 TDD band classes.
Verizon announced yesterday that they will be making their PCS spectrum available for LTE in 2015. If you are looking at a planning horizon, you could call this LTE Channel #3 for Verizon. Channel #1 is the 700MHz C Block Channel, Channel #2 is their AWS spectrum holding, and Channel #3 is now their PCS spectrum asset. Previously Verizon had indicated interest in Clearwire EBS/BRS spectrum which was their Channel #3 at that time, which has passed.
So what does this mean to Verizon and its customers? First, there are a limited number of markets where Verizon lacks cellular spectrum, so the PCS spectrum carries their voice traffic. See the Tulsa, OK, Spectrum Grid below:
In Tulsa, USCellular owns the B-band Cellular spectrum, highlighting a potential acquisition opportunity. Verizon holds 5MHz of spectrum in the PCS block for their voice services, along with 10MHz of AWS spectrum.
Looking at the contiguous spectrum that Verizon holds in each of the cellular market areas we see that the only market where they can create a 20x20 LTE channel with their PCS spectrum holding is in New York, NY. For the New York market, Verizon's PCS spectrum holding would permit 4 - 5x5 LTE Channels, or 2 - 10x10 LTE Channels, or 1 20x20 LTE Channel. Below are the results for Verizon's PCS Spectrum in Cellular markets 1-25. The fractional LTE channels (e.g. 2.1 - 5x5 LTE in Minneapolis) are caused by summarizing the number LTE channels in each market by averaging the LTE channel count for each county in that cellular market area (CMA).
Below are the results for Verizon's PCS Spectrum in Cellular markets 25-50. Clearly, deployment of Verizon's PCS spectrum with LTE will not provide as much additional capacity as their Channel #1 and Channel #2 plans, thus Verizon is still spectrum shopping for their 2015 LTE capacity.
T-Mobile announced an acquisition this morning of USCellular's AWS spectrum in several markets. This was clearly foreshadowed when I analyzed the Sprint - USCellular PCS spectrum deal earlier this year.
On this chart from the Spectrum Ownership Analysis Tool, you can see the PCS spectrum in Chicago and St. Louis that Sprint acquired along with the subscribers and network. Thus it was clear to see that USCellular's AWS(B) and AWS(E) spectrum was no longer needed.
It clearly makes sense for T-Mobile to acquire this spectrum as indicated in the chart below. In St Louis, T-Mobile will increase their LTE Channel size from 10MHz to 25MHz and in Kansas City, T-Mobile will increase from 10MHz to 15MHz. The chart also highlights the important spectrum position that Leap hold in the AWS band which both T-Mobile and Verizon would desire to add to their portfolio.