The battle for LTE networks and radio-frequency spectrum have been going on for a while, but with the advancements made in the smartphone industry it has picked up considerably in the last few years. Behind every dropped call, or slow data speed is spectrum or a lack of it. Four years ago, T-Mobile was the smallest of the big four wireless providers with a little patch of spectrum. Much has changed since then and now with T-Mobile about to pass Sprint to become the nation’s 3rd largest wireless provider they need more spectrum. Last year in January 2014, T-Mobile purchased $2.37 billion worth of 700MHz radio-frequency spectrum from rival Verizon Wireless to increase their signal in rural areas and to better their signal reach and to penetrate walls easier.
Now with the FCC about to set up an auction to bid on 600 MHz of broadcast spectrum, T-Mobile has employed former California Congressman Henry Waxman to lobby on its behalf. Mr. Waxman wrote a letter to the FCC urging them to set up a compromise on when they should start bidding on the broadcast spectrum. Right now the FCC plans for 30 MHz of spectrum to be bid on. It is set up in a way that would not allow the larger wireless providers such as Verizon and AT&T to come in and buy them before the smaller providers get a chance. That sounds good in theory, but what makes T-Mobile nervous is that if the bidding takes too long it will allow Verizon and AT&T to buy up the spectrum if certain pricing triggers are not met.
In a letter written to the FCC T-Mobile lobbyist, Henry Waxman had this to say about the upcoming auction and bidding process. “Smaller competitors and would-be rivals to Verizon and AT&T want to ensure the spectrum reserve that the Commission adopted comes into effect before the two dominant incumbents can purchase the lion’s share of available low-band spectrum. At the same time, the two dominant incumbents want to delay the spectrum reserve from coming into effect as long as possible to promote their business interests, which may be driven in part by anticompetitive motivations that prompted repeated expressions of concern from the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.”
This is a battle that is just getting started between the FCC, T-Mobile and the big two of Verizon and AT&T. T-mobile for all their recent progress and Un-carrier success, still find themselves lagging in the fight for spectrum and radio-frequency. For them to grow their LTE network reach and graduate into the weight class of Verizon and AT&T, they need help from lobbyists such as Henry Waxman to help reach their goal.