The incentive auction that is set to take place in early 2016, has been one of the most popularly covered auctions in the wireless industry in quite some time. And there’s good reason for that. This is going to be the last auction of low-band spectrum for the foreseeable future (many analysts are saying another decade before more low-band spectrum is available). With AT&T and Verizon already controlling a huge portion of the sub-1GHz spectrum that’s available to wireless carriers, this is a big auction for both T-Mobile and Sprint, if they really want to compete with the larger two wireless carriers.
Many analysts in the industry are saying that they think the auction in January is going to raise around $60 billion or more. Well, AT&T Mobility’s CEO, Glenn Lurie disagrees. Lurie was speaking at the Code Mobile conference being put on by Re/Code yesterday, and said that for the auction to raise $60 billion is “unrealistic”. While the FCC hasn’t forecasted that figure, the FCC did mention in a footnote of the auction rules that it set in August, that the auction could raise somewhere from $60 billion to $80 billion.
Sprint has already stated that they will not be taking part in this spectrum auction, quoting that they have enough spectrum already. Which is somewhat true. They have the most spectrum out of all of the carriers, and also have a decent amount of 800MHz spectrum, thanks to the Nextel merger (which wasn’t a great merger, to be honest), as well as 2500MHz spectrum from the ClearWire acquisition. Dish Network also hasn’t decided whether they are going to participate in this spectrum auction. They do have a nice collection of spectrum already from previous auctions, but they have yet to do anything with it. And without Sprint, it’s going to be a bit tougher to see this auction hit $60 billion, although I wouldn’t rule it out.
T-Mobile has said that they are going to “go hard” in this auction and get as much of the 600MHz licenses as they can and pair it with their existing 700MHz and 1900MHz spectrum for LTE. Which will provide a huge change in their network signal as well as coverage (low-band spectrum can cover more area with less towers, as well as penetrate buildings better).