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FCC Chairman Against Increasing Reserved Spectrum

June 18, 2015 - Written By Kishalaya Kundu

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to reject T-Mobile’s assertion, that smaller carriers need more reserved spectrum than what the regulator has proposed, going into next year’s incentive auctions for 600 MHz broadcast TV spectrum. Bloomberg Business is reporting, that according to sources familiar with the matter, FCC Chairman Mr. Tom Wheeler apparently doesn’t believe T-Mobile’s argument holds much water, and will recommend the regulator stick to its original position of reserving 30 MHz blocks rather than the 40 MHz the Uncarrier has been clamoring for. Officially however, T-Mobile is putting up a brave face, in spite of the imminent reversal. The company’s spokesperson Mr. Timothy O’Regan insisted that “It’s not over”. Through an email, Mr. O’Regan said “The public conversation on the future of the mobile Internet continues. The five FCC commissioners still need to make their decision”.

T-Mobile has been lobbying the FCC to raise the amount of reserved spectrum to 40 MHz in each given market, instead of the 30 MHz mandated by the FCC. The regulator is proposing that 30 MHz blocks of spectrum be reserved for bidding only by carriers who do not already hold 45 MHz of low-band spectrum (below 1 GHz) in a given market. AT&T and Verizon are already seeing red over the reservations, which will prohibit the companies from bidding on the much coveted low-band spectrum in most markets across the country. The spectrum was thus far owned by television stations, who’ll be surrendering their licenses in order for the airwaves to change hands.

In an official blog post, Mr. Wheeler explained the rationale behind his thinking. “No single party will be happy with everything we’ve done, but the final product is a balanced solution”, he wrote. He believes that FCC’s suggestion “ensures that competitive wireless carriers and new entrants have a clear shot”. T-Mobile however, continues to insist that FCC needs to do more to safeguard the interests of smaller companies and prevent AT&T and Verizon from becoming the “de facto gatekeepers to the mobile Internet”. Verizon meanwhile, has been asserting the whole reservation scheme is just a bad policy decision on part of the FCC. According to sources familiar with the internal workings of the regulator, the issue will be voted upon on July 16th, when the FCC will convene a meeting for a final decision on the matter.