FCC opens up more spectrum to keep mobile phones working during coronavirus pandemic

With unprecedented demand for service thanks to the coronavirus, the mobile phone companies are getting access to more radio spectrum to keep our calls and data going through reliably.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

You may be worried about there being enough internet to go around thanks to the coronavirus pushing us into our homes, but mobile phones are also facing a potential bandwidth shortage. So the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular temporary access to more wireless spectrum access to bolster nationwide access.

AT&T and Verizon appear to have led this effort. AT&T was granted authority for 60 days to operate in DISH's AWS-4 Band spectrum. Later, both AT&T and Verizon were granted similar authority to use the FCC's AWS-3 spectrum. 

Over the last few years, Dish had bought the rights to AWS-4 for a stillborn plan to launch a 5G service. Now, Dish has donated its band for the major telecoms to use to help deal with the pandemic. 

The FCC also granted T-Mobile temporary permission to use additional 600MHz Band spectrum to help meet increased customer demand for broadband. T-Mobile delivers both 4G and its new long-distance 5G service over the 600Mhz band. US Cellular has temporary access to additional spectrum for its customers in parts of California, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.

"Consumers and businesses across the country are making the necessary adjustments to maintain social distance during the coronavirus pandemic. This means an increased reliance on wireline and wireless broadband services," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement. "The FCC has been coordinating closely with network operators to ensure those networks remain up and running. We have been encouraged by the feedback we have received so far both regarding the ability of their networks to handle changes in usage patterns caused by the coronavirus outbreak and how networks are performing so far."

As far as you're concerned, you won't notice a thing. What you might have seen, had these moves not been made, is poorer or even mobile voice and network failures. This was a good move by both the FCC and mobile telecoms.

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