Earlier this week, Comcast announced during their earnings call that they would be taking part in the incentive auction later this quarter. Where the FCC is auctioning off a good bit of 600MHz spectrum to wireless carriers. T-Mobile has been getting very excited about this auction and is planning to spend a good bit of cash to get the spectrum that they want and need. Where AT&T and Verizon already hold a good bit of the sub-1GHz spectrum in the US, the FCC made some special rules for this auction that benefit those with less spectrum – including cable companies like Charter, Comcast and Dish. More than likely, Dish will be part of the auction although they haven’t confirmed that they will. And now Charter is stating that they won’t be joining the auction with Comcast.
In Charter’s earnings call, the company’s CEO Tom Rutledge confirmed that his company will not be participating. Many had thought that Charter might participate and grab some spectrum, but it looks like that’s not happening. The reasoning behind the decision is due to the pending acquisition of Time Warner Cable as well as Bright House Networks. Citing that they are still awaiting the transactions to complete and that Charter is not in the “same place as Comcast”. Charter isn’t expecting the deals for Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks to close until about June. Once more, Charter may need to concede to the regulators for the deal to be completed – similar to what happened with AT&T when they bought DirecTV last year.
Apparently, it seems that this spectrum auction may not be as big of a deal as many had hoped it would be. Sprint has already stated that they won’t be taking part in the auction this year, Verizon has been pretty lukewarm to the idea, stating that they have enough spectrum. Leaving T-Mobile and AT&T as the national carriers joining the auction – and AT&T can’t bid as heavily as they’d like due to rules put forth by the FCC. However, you do have Dish and Comcast now, who both have tons of money. Both of which have some spectrum already, Comcast is leasing some of their spectrum to Verizon, and in return they have the ability to become a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) and can sell wireless service using Verizon’s network. Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks also have a MVNO deal with Verizon, but neither have taken advantage of it just yet.
Right now, the FCC has slated the incentive auction to begin on March 29th, and companies have a few more days to go ahead and file the paperwork to take part in the auction.