Carriers spent more than $19.63 billion earlier this year at the broadcaster incentive auction, with T-Mobile alone spending $8 billion on 600Mhz spectrum it has crowed will make the company’s network significantly better . But before carriers can use this spectrum and consumers can benefit, the FCC must oversee a massive repackaging effort that migrates broadcasters off of this precious spectrum. The FCC has set aside 39 months for this reauthorization and relicensing of TV stations, and T-Mobile says it’s trying to help things along .
But there’s now
indicating that this timeline could be very optimistic, and the actual migration could take twice as long as predicted.
Robert Gutman of Guggenheim Equity Research states in an Inside Towers report (hat tip, Fierce Wireless ) that the kind of crews certified to do this kind of work are in short supply, contributing to a dramatically slower pace.
“As part of the 600 MHz auction, broadcasters have 39 months to move the antennas needed for the television channel repack,” notes the report. “However, Vertical Technology Services (a Maryland provider of tower services) estimates that only 14 crews are qualified for the work. As such, Kevin Barber, CEO of Tower King II, believes the repack could take five to seven years. If this estimate is correct, it means the towers may not benefit from the rollout of 600 MHz in the immediate future.”
That’s particularly bad news for T-Mobile, which has beenbreathlessly hyping its 600 Mhz deployment as how the company will bring its network more in line with Verizon Wireless in terms of coverage and performance. T-Mobile has also
that the merger between Sinclar Broadcasting and Tribune could further slow the 600 MHz migration, due to Sinclair’s historical opposition to the spectrum handover.