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DOJ Weighs in on Upcoming Spectrum Auction

June 25, 2015 - Written By Alexander Maxham

There’s been a lot of talk, ahead of the upcoming incentive auction which is set to place in 2016. This auction will auction off the last of the low-band spectrum (600MHz to be exact) to the carriers. After this auction, we don’t expect to see another auction for low-band spectrum for at least another decade. What’s so important about this so-called low-band spectrum is that it allows carriers to expand their coverage without putting up new towers. Putting up a new tower costs carriers millions, literally. So using low-band spectrum is more cost effective, as well as allowing for better coverage inside.

Currently, Verizon and AT&T have the majority of the low-band spectrum available. T-Mobile, Sprint and other regional carriers have been petitioning the FCC to change the rules a bit, to make it more fair for smaller carriers. Because if AT&T or Verizon wins this auction, it could spell doom for all of those smaller carriers. Additionally, you’d think this is something the FCC would want, as they keep saying “more competition”. And by setting aside more spectrum for those smaller carriers, it means more competition. You might remember the FCC and DOJ turned down AT&T’s bid to buy T-Mobile back in 2011, as well as talking Sprint/SoftBank out of merging with T-Mobile last year.

The US Department of Justice, today, sent out a public letter to the FCC. Basically saying that the FCC should reconsider how many airwaves are being set aside for those that aren’t AT&T or Verizon. Right now, the FCC is planning to put 30MHz aside, however, T-Mobile and others want 40MHz set aside. The Justice Department did state that they should give “considerable weight” that if AT&T and Verizon win the auction, this could limit competition for years, almost another decade.

The FCC is set to declare the rules for this spectrum auction on July 16th. T-Mobile still wants its customers to head to savewirelesschoice.com and tell the FCC what they think. While we don’t have anything against Verizon or AT&T, we would definitely like to see more competition here in the US, and have carriers with virtually the same coverage everywhere. Although that’s still pretty far off.