US wireless companies’ limited access to some of the nation’s most valuable airwaves threatens to slow down their plans to build faster 5G networks. At issue are broad swaths of the radio spectrum in frequencies that can travel long distances and penetrate buildings. This “mid-band” is considered ideal for faster, fifth-generation wireless service. Sprint and Dish Network already hold large amounts of mid-band spectrum not yet put to work serving customers. Other nearby frequencies remain reserved for satellite communications and military use in the US.
AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile were the biggest spenders on a pair of Federal Communications Commission auctions designed to spark investment in next-wave 5G networks. The auctions covered two swaths of wireless spectrum -- the 24 gigahertz (GHz) and 28 GHz millimeter wave bands -- frequencies once considered too extreme for cellphone service. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has made those frequencies a cornerstone of his strategy to spur 5G investments.
The Trump Administration’s swift-moving plan to promote 5G networks is running into resistance from the weather-forecasting community. The dispute centers around ultrahigh radio frequencies that the Federal Communications Commission recently auctioned off for use in the country’s next-generation wireless networks.
Apparently, the Justice Department antitrust enforcement staff have told T-Mobile and Sprint that their planned merger is unlikely to be approved as currently structured, casting doubt on the fate of the $26 billion deal. In a meeting earlier in April, DOJ staff members laid out their concerns with the all-stock deal and questioned the companies’ arguments that the combination would produce important efficiencies for the merged firm.
Two US providers of phone services for correctional facilities called off their planned merger after the Federal Communications Commission refused to clear the deal. Closely held Securus Technologies Inc. and Inmate Calling Solutions LLC withdrew their merger application after FCC staff reviewing the deal said it would hurt the public interest.
AT&T plans to stop providing service to devices that use third-generation wireless technology in early 2022 as it makes room for more powerful standards. The decision follows rival Verizon Communications' warning that it will disconnect old 3G cellphones at the end of 2019. The companies are driven by necessity. Cellphone users with unlimited data plans stream more video on the go, testing the limits of what service providers can handle. Getting customers off 3G allows carriers to free up wireless frequencies for 4G signals over broader swaths of the radio spectrum.
Some residents and businesses in rural America face a perplexing problem: They know people are trying to call their phones and sometimes failing, but they don’t know why. Landline customers have logged hundreds of complaints with the Federal Communications Commission in recent years about calls that don’t reach them. When a call is dropped, the caller hears a phone ringing endlessly or gets dead air. Telecom experts say the failed calls are most often bound for landlines served by small rural phone companies, though the calls’ origin can be a cellphone, office line or automated system.
Apparently, T-Mobile won approval from US national-security officials for its planned takeover of Sprint, bringing the two rivals a step closer to closing their roughly $26 billion combination. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, or Cfius, told the companies that it had cleared the union of the No 3 and No 4 carriers by subscribers after several months of negotiations with company representatives.
Cellphone carriers often call their most valuable radio-wave licenses “beachfront” property. As with real estate, it pays to be in a prime location. Government officials will test that thinking this month by selling some once-barren tracts of that virtual real estate in the upper reaches of the wireless spectrum. How much companies are willing to pay for them remains to be seen. The Federal Communications Commission began the first of two auctions for extremely high-frequency spectrum licenses, raising cash from a type of radio wave once considered useless for wireless service.
Millions of Americans will soon encounter new poles or notice antennas sprouting on existing structures, like utility poles, street lamps and traffic lights, all over their neighborhoods. All four national cellphone companies are pushing to build out their networks with a profusion of small, local cells to keep their data-hungry customers satisfied and lay the groundwork for fifth-generation, or 5G, service. Those plans face pushback in many places, and not just from residents.