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A bird’s-eye view of T-Mobile’s new spectrum trove

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With their planned merger officially dead, AT&T(s T) is in the process of handing over T-Mobile’s consolation prize, which includes a grab bag of airwaves T-Mobile will use to bulk up its 4G network. AT&T’s official transfer application popped up on the Federal Communications Commission website over the weekend, revealing for the first time the specific licenses T-Mobile would gain. For those of you who don’t want to dig through the arcane documentation, GigaOM reader and spectrum policy wonk Andrew Shepherd has prepared a map that shows exactly where T-Mobile picks up new airwaves and how much.


T-Mobile didn’t get new spectrum nationwide but it certainly got some valuable licenses in key cities. What’s more, Shepherd found that AT&T had fork over all of its AWS holdings in some pretty valuable markets, including Boston; San Francisco/Oakland; Washington, D.C.; Houston; Baltimore; Atlanta; San Diego; Seattle; Kansas City, Mo.; San Jose, Calif.; San Antonio; and Salt Lake City. While those losses must sting AT&T, the operator was very careful about which markets it chose to relinquish.

AT&T is launching its LTE over both 700 MHz and AWS frequencies, and in all of the biggest cities, AT&T only gave up spectrum where it had enough 700 MHz backfill to get at least a decent-sized LTE network up and running, Shepherd said. In some big cities AT&T will only have enough 700 MHz to launch networks half the size of Verizon’s current LTE setup. But AT&T will be able to boost its capacity considerably when it moves to LTE-Advanced, incorporating the new 700 MHz spectrum it bought from Qualcomm. In the biggest markets such as Chicago, AT&T wouldn’t part with any of its AWS licenses even though it had other spectrum to fall back on.

As for T-Mobile, it made out like a bandit in some of the nation’s most important cities, giving it between 60 MHz and 80 MHz of combined AWS and PCS airwaves in many of the markets involved in the transaction. That will allow T-Mobile to expand its HSPA+ 42 Mbps footprint in some areas and add more 4G capacity in others.