FiberTower Gives Up Hundreds of 5G Licenses in FCC Settlement


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FiberTower, which is being acquired by AT&T, agreed to give up hundreds of high-band millimeter wave licenses to settle litigation with the FCC. AT&T could have used the spectrum for 5G development.  

As part of the agreement, FiberTower will give up all of its 94 licenses in the 24 GHz band and 595 licenses in the 39 GHz band. Additionally, AT&T agreed to pay the U.S. Treasury $27 million to end the dispute.

At issue, was the Wireless Bureau’s claim that FiberTower, “had not shown that it had provided substantial service for the 689 licenses,” according to the order released by the Broadband Division of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. The bureau refused FiberTower’s request to review an earlier decision, saying the company “had not shown that its failure to meet the construction deadline” were due to circumstances beyond its control.  

The licenses that FiberTower agreed to give up will help the Commission “re-band” the 39 GHz band, “which is necessary prior to auction of vacant and available licenses” in that band, said the FCC. The agency added that the $27 million payment helps address potential concerns “about undue enrichment of FiberTower with respect to licenses acquired at auction for which it has not yet demonstrated its compliance with Commission performance requirements.” The money also puts FiberTower “in substantially the same position” as most of the other license holders in the band.

The Commission said it was in the public interest to waive the June 1, 2012 service deadline for 39 GHz licenses and gave FiberTower a new deadline of June 1, 2024. It now has 478 licenses in the 39 GHz band.

The settlement also covers a separate legal battle with the FCC over FiberTower’s 2012 bankruptcy case; the company could not sell the licenses and a stay remained in effect after the company emerged from bankruptcy, according to Mobile World Live.  

February 1, 2018   

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