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The FCC is allowing T-Mobile USA to test an LTE service in the 1755-1780 MHz band that would share spectrum with federal users, notes Fierce Wireless.

The commission’s approval today (pdf) clears the way for the first tests gauging the impact of spectrum sharing in the band between commercial providers and incumbent government users such as the Defense Department.

T-Mobile filed a request in May for special temporary authority to test LTE service in the spectrum. Congress and the FCC have identified the band for reallocation from the government to commercial users, but the logistical difficulties of moving federal users off the band has made it necessary for the wireless industry to explore spectrum sharing as an alternative.

Spectrum sharing between the public and private sectors is “a new tool that joins clearing and reallocation as part of an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to address our nation’s spectrum challenges,” Genachowski said.

Proposals to share spectrum with the government have been met with some wariness by the wireless industry, which prefers spectrum that has been completely cleared of incumbent users.

The 1755-1780 MHz band was the focus of a bill this April by two House lawmakers. Their proposal gave federal agencies on the band five years to relocate to another block of spectrum, so that the FCC could pair the 1755-1780 and 2155-2180 MHz spectrum blocks and put them up for auction. But the bill never made it past committee.

The other half of that proposed paired AWS spectrum, 2155-2180 MHz, is currently unused. It sits between Dish’s 2.1 GHz (MSS) spectrum, now called the AWS-4 band, and the main AWS band downlink channels.

T-Mobile plans on using its 1700 MHz AWS spectrum for LTE while it refarms its 1900 MHz PCS spectrum for HSPA+ service. That also plays well for the iPhone, which supports LTE on the PCS band, but not (yet) on the AWS band. T-Mobile got AWS spectrum from AT&T after the failed merger, with AWS spectrum in 128 Cellular Market Areas (CMAs), including 12 of the top 20 markets. T-Mobile now has sufficient spectrum to roll out LTE with 20MHz to about 75% of the top 25 markets in 2013. Most remaining markets will have 10MHz.

Additionally, T-Mobile says the tentative transfer of Verizon’s AWS spectrum to T-Mobile in 125 markets will deepen its LTE coverage. It also agreed to a one-for-one AWS spectrum swaps in 76 markets will promote efficiency by each of the companies.

T-Mobile’s LTE trials are underway this summer using Release-10 equipment (LTE-Advanced) which allows carrier aggregation.

See Dailywireless: T-Mobile Gets AWS Spectrum from Breakup, T-Mobile Gears Up for LTE, Verizon Spectrum Deal Gets a Hearing, T-Mobile USA Launching LTE, Verizon AWS Spectrum Purchase Opposed, Verizon Buying Nationwide AWS Spectrum from Cable, Verizon-Cable Deal: Too Cozy?, Cross Marketing of Verizon & Cable Begins, AT&T: On the Couch, iBooks: Cellular’s Big Bang?

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