T-Mobile is nearly in possession of the 2.5 GHz licenses for which it paid about $304 million to acquire at auction in 2022.

The House of Representatives on Monday passed Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) 5G Spectrum Authority Licensing Enforcement (SALE) Act, which would require the FCC to release the licenses. The Senate passed similar legislation in September.

Even though the FCC in 2022 auctioned nearly 8,000 2.5 GHz licenses, the FCC did not immediately grant T-Mobile’s licenses, and Congress allowed the FCC’s auction authority to lapse.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel argued that law prohibited her from granting the licenses. Not everyone agreed with that assessment. Meanwhile, T-Mobile pursued the legislative route to get the job done.

Fierce today reached out to T-Mobile for comment and was pointed to this message on social media yesterday by T-Mobile VP of Legislative Affairs Tony Russo. 

Not so good for rivals

In a note for investors, New Street Research policy analyst Blair Levin said granting of the licenses will have an immediate impact on T-Mobile’s operational performance as the company has already built out the towers and radios to use much of this spectrum.

He noted that a Brattle Group report, which was paid for by T-Mobile, concluded that granting the licenses would enable T-Mobile to upgrade service to more than 50 million individuals almost immediately and offer in-home broadband service to 3 million households.

“Bottom Line: The legislation passing is a plus for TMUS, a negative for T and VZ, and due to more in-home broadband opportunities, likely a negative” for both Charter Communications and Comcast, Levin  wrote.

Positive step, says CCA

While T-Mobile won the vast majority of the 2.5 GHz licenses, some other entities that participated in Auction 108 also are eager to access their spectrum. The auction offered county-sized licenses, which are easier for smaller entities to compete for versus the larger blocks that the big carriers typically prefer.

In a statement, Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) President and CEO Tim Donovan praised the passing of the SALE Act and urged President Biden to swiftly sign it into law.

“CCA hopes this momentum will carry into Congress fully reinstating FCC spectrum auction authority. This action is a positive step toward improving 5G connectivity and maintaining U.S. leadership in innovation for all businesses and consumers,” Donovan said.

It’s worth noting that AT&T did not compete in the 2.5 GHz auction, but in November 2022 asked the FCC to deny T-Mobile’s long-form application or attach conditions to it. AT&T argued T-Mobile already owns too much mid-band spectrum. In 2021, AT&T petitioned the FCC for a rulemaking to establish a mid-band spectrum screen.

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