T-Mobile exec gives carrier’s perspective on D Block debate
Wireless carriers want the D Block to be auctioned for commercial use, but auction proceeds should be dedicated to the buildout of a public-safety broadband network, according to an executive for T-Mobile.
Kathleen Ham, managing director for T-Mobile, said there is considerable “pent-up demand” among commercial carriers for the D Block spectrum. Although T-Mobile was not in a financial position to bid during the 700 MHz auction in 2008 after spending billions of dollars for AWS spectrum the previous year, the carrier would like to participate in the D Block auction the FCC plans to conduct during the first half of 2011.
“There really isn’t any other spectrum out there that’s on the block in the near future, so I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand and need,” Ham said.
Public-safety officials have been lobbying Congress in an effort to convince federal lawmakers to reallocate the D Block spectrum to public safety. Ham noted that, in addition to the 10 MHz of broadband spectrum licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST), first responders also have 14 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band dedicated for narrowband use and guard bands. Ham has noted that this spectrum could be transitioned to broadband use if public safety needs additional broadband spectrum in the future.
“I think, over time, the point is that’s something that should be looked at as the technology evolves to serve their needs,” she said. “Voice is eventually going to be a packet. It’s certainly that way in the commercial sector, and it’s only going to get better in terms of technology. There’s a benefit to public safety to riding that wave.”
Ham said she is confident that network-sharing arrangements between a D Block winner and public safety can be successful.
“We had a similar arrangement with Cingular in a transaction where we shared spectrum and a network, and it worked very well,” she said. “There’s some things like this going on in Europe, so we think it can work with public safety. There’s a difference between ownership and control. We think they can control the network with how you divide up the core network, but they can certainly share the radio-access network and save themselves a lot of money.”
T-Mobile “would love to get past this spectrum issue … and move on to the next level,” Ham said. Not only does the carrier support future auctions proceeds being used to help fund the proposed public-safety network, she believes that earmarking such funds is politically feasible.
“Over the years, a number of people have thought about ways to attach auction proceeds for this or that, and some of them have not been successful. But this is one where I think there is a political will, the FCC has put out a really good plan and I think people feel really good about it. I think public safety really should embrace the FCC plan and work toward funding.”