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AT&T Replies To John Legere’s Outburst Last Week

June 17, 2015 - Written By Kishalaya Kundu

The war of words between T-Mobile and AT&T doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. The big two (AT&T and Verizon) have been locked in a tussle with their smaller rivals Sprint and T-Mobile over spectrum allocation for next year’s impending incentive auction of low-band, 600 MHz broadcast TV spectrum for a while now, and the bad blood doesn’t seem to be abating. With T-Mobile lobbying the FCC to raise the reserve amount to 40 MHz up from the current 30 MHz, it would be an understatement to say AT&T and Verizon aren’t exactly impressed. The two bigger player together control around 73% of spectrum under 1 GHz.

With T-Mobile CEO Mr. John Legere having referred to AT&T and Verizon as ‘Dumb and Dumber‘ last week, AT&T deemed it fit to come back with a repartee as of Tuesday. In an official statement posted on the company blog, Ms. Joan Marsh, AT&T’s VP of Federal Regulatory wrote, “the reserve framework will have very little impact on wireless service or deployment in rural America”. Explaining the rationale behind her statement, she said, AT&T simply doesn’t have enough low-band spectrum in most rural areas to allow for the reservations threshold to come into play. It’s worth mentioning here, that FCC has mandated for 30 MHz spectrum to be reserved for bidding only by carriers who own less than 45 MHz of spectrum below 1 GHz in a given market. Ms. Marsh’s argument here is that AT&T itself doesn’t own 45 MHz of low band spectrum in most rural markets, and hence, couldn’t really be bothered about any reservations, as that wouldn’t restrict AT&T from bidding in those markets.

Trying to poke holes in Mr. Legere’s assertion that “T-Mobile is pushing for more low-band spectrum to expand its rural footprint and improve its in-building coverage”, Ms. Marsh further wrote that the “restrictions are actually designed to protect T-Mobile from bidding competition in urban markets–even though T-Mobile itself argues that 92% of non-rural Americans have access to four or more mobile broadband providers. Only 40% of rural Americans, T-Mobile argues, enjoy the same and thus T-Mobile tries to build a case for expanding the restrictions to support deployment in rural America”. T-Mobile hasn’t made any comments thus far on Ms. Marsh’s statement.

According to a study conducted by Mosaik Solutions for FierceWireless, AT&T holds over 45 MHz low band spectrum across vast areas of the North-East, the West Coast, and also many areas in the South-East of the country. Even more importantly, the company already owns large amount of spectrum in many urban regions, including 44 out of the 50 largest markets, which will severely restrict its ability to bid in those lucrative markets. The company however, will be eligible to bid for reserve spectrum in the Midwest and up North, in the mountain states. Verizon meanwhile, are in an even tighter spot, as the company holds over 45 MHz spectrum in most markets across the country, meaning it will not be allowed to bid on reserve spectrum almost across the nation.