Fox TV partners with T-Mobile to speed spectrum move

T-Mobile spent nearly $8 billion on spectrum in the FCC's broadcast incentive auctions.

Fox Television Stations is teaming up with T-Mobile to speed up the 600 MHz spectrum repack process for one station and to do so seemingly for a fraction of the original estimated cost.

Per the agreement, WWOR-TV in New York City will repack in early 2018—ahead of the August 2019 deadline mandated by the FCC—and will require about $70 million less from the Incentive Auction Relocation fund to accomplish the task.

T-Mobile said the deal will make sure that WWOR-TV’s more than 19 million households continue receiving programming over the air while giving T-Mobile faster access to spectrum it will use to boost wireless coverage and capacity in the New York City area.

“We’re committed to working with broadcasters across the country to clear 600 MHz spectrum, so we can preserve programming and bring increased wireless choice and competition across the country,” said T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray in a statement.

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T-Mobile’s deal with Fox TV is similar to an agreement the wireless carrier in June announced with PBS, allowing T-Mobile to cover the costs for local public television low-power facilities moving to new channels following the broadcast incentive spectrum auctions.

“We are thrilled that T-Mobile sees the value that public broadcasting brings to the American people and is helping to ensure that everyone—regardless of income or zip code—continues to have access to PBS, including vital emergency alerts and programs that help prepare children for success in school,” said PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger in a statement.

For T-Mobile, which bid nearly $8 billion in the auctions for access to 600 MHz airwaves, footing the bill for broadcasters ensures the carrier can get faster access to spectrum that will help continue to add coverage and capacity. Low-band spectrum like 600 MHz airwaves is known for its propagation characteristics that provide better in-building coverage and allow carriers to cover more territory with fewer cell sites.

For the 175 broadcasters who sold spectrum in the auctions—ending up in nearly 1,000 TV stations needing to move to new channels—teaming up with interested parties like T-Mobile could help them meet the fairly tight budgetary and timeframe constrictions on the repack process.