As most of you know, there’s a spectrum auction coming up soon. And a group of smaller carriers have join forces to ask the FCC to place restrictions on the bigger carriers, Verizon and AT&T during the spectrum auction. In a meeting with several FCC legal advisors and the Chairman Tom Wheeler, the group stated that Verizon and AT&T “have a powerful economic incentive to acquire the remaining low-band spectrum they do not already control in order to prevent competitors from undercutting them with superior service, pricing, terms or technology.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this. We’ve also heard this from the likes of T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who thinks that a merger between his company and Softbank-owned Sprint, would help fight against the Verizon and AT&T duopoly in spectrum in the US. The group also pointed out that both Verizon and AT&T have the highest spectrum book values. Obviously, both Verizon and AT&T have argued against this. Noting that such limitations will hamper FirstNet, which is a public safety broadband network that is planed for nationwide rollout. The two carriers also feel that these limitations would essentially choose the winners ahead of the auction.
We can definitely see both sides of the argument here. While I’d love to see the smaller carriers – even regional ones – get more sub-1GHz spectrum for their network, it just wouldn’t be fair for there to be limitations on AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile is currently in the process of picking up some 700MHz spectrum from Verizon right now, which should help them out, but more lower spectrum would definitely help them and Sprint. This groups is made up of Sprint, T-Mobile, C Spire Wireless, The Competitive Carriers Association, The Rural Wireless Association, The New America Foundation, Public Knowledge, the Computer & Communications Industry Association and the Writers Guid of America. All of them feel that the playing field for this spectrum needs to be leveled.
Verizon struck back hard against this group, in a separate filing. They asked that all spectrum be up for sale. Big red went on to ask that the FCC “reject requests to restrict the ability of Verizon and AT&T to participate, which will reduce auction revenues and risk outright auction failure. Instead, it should adopt rules that encourage the broadest possible participation by broadcasters and wireless carriers alike, in order to maximize the amount of spectrum repurposed for mobile broadband and fund FirstNet and deficit reduction.”
As most of our readers know, I’m a big T-Mobile fan. But I’d love to see both Sprint and T-Mobile get more sub-1GHz spectrum out of the auction. Especially if it would help them build out networks as great as AT&T and Verizon. There’s no doubt that AT&T and Verizon have the better networks. Which is why they don’t really compete with T-Mobile and Sprint in terms of pricing, customer service and plans.