Why is T-Mobile Giving Up Spectrum in Hawaii? March 5, 2024 17:30

T-Mobile made commitments to the FCC in the Memorandum Opinion and Order in their application for their Auction 108 (2.5 GHz Band Licenses).  T-Mobile committed to divest by sale or swap, 20 MHz of spectrum in the AWS-1, AWS3, PCS, or 2.5GHz bands.  The spectrum sold will be no smaller than 10 MHz blocks of TDD spectrum or 5x5 MHz blocks of FDD (paired) spectrum.  T-Mobile has twelve months to file the transfer applications.

The FCC specifically called out two CMA markets where T-Mobile will need to divest spectrum:  CMA385 - Kauai and CMA386 - Maui.  Although T-Mobile's held spectrum in Hawaii doesn't stand out compared to other markets in the US, the issue with the spectrum screen in Hawaii is that 3.45 GHz spectrum (100 MHz) and C-band spectrum (280 MHz) are not available.  This reduces the available spectrum by almost 400 MHz, thus reducing the spectrum screen by potentially 126 MHz. 


In the above map, the CMA markets in Hawaii are indicated.  To see how each carriers spectrum totals up in each of these markets we will utilize our Web Spectrum Viewer - Spectrum Depth Module.  First we have exported the county spectrum totals by band classification.  Kalawao and Maui county make up CMA 386 and Kauai county makes up CMA385.  The bottom 3 counties in the chart below represent the counties where T-Mobile needs to divest 20 MHz of spectrum.  

Reviewing the data, it is clear that T-Mobile's lower mid-band spectrum and upper mid-band spectrum are the two areas where T-Mobile has a sizable advantage.  I assume that EBS/BRS spectrum is off the table from T-Mobile's perspective and it would be difficult to sell that band due to T-Mobile's nationwide "exclusive" use.

Looking then at the lower mid-band spectrum, T-Mobile's held spectrum in both the AWS-1 and AWS-3 bands is pretty similar with Verizon and AT&T. 

I will also note that if T-Mobile was to give up any of their AWS-1/AWS-3 spectrum holdings they would drop below their desired 20MHz channel in NR band 66.

There are two considerations for T-Mobile's PCS spectrum.  First, T-Mobile controls two blocks of spectrum in all of the Hawaii counties, 15 MHz at the bottom of the band and 20 MHz at the top.  I believe that T-Mobile's agreement with SpaceX utilizes the PCS G channels at the top of the PCS band, so I think the upper block will be retained.  In a perfect world, T-Mobile would sell a 10x10 slice (A8-A11) of their lower block of spectrum to Verizon and swap their A6-A7 spectrum with Verizon for Verizon's F1-F2 spectrum.  In this scenario, Verizon would increase their channel size in two of these counties from 10/10 to 20/20 and in Kauai they would have 25/25.  T-Mobile would then have all of their spectrum together and could have a NR band 25 - 20MHz channel and a dedicated 5 MHz channel for SpaceX.

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