The upcoming U.S. spectrum auction in March has been heating up dramatically the last few months, with T-Mobile’s mad genius of a CEO, John Legere, practically declaring war on “The Duopoly”, or AT&T and Verizon. With Sprint essentially out of the picture, already having enough spectrum apparently, the three seem free to duke it out in total war until the auction. The two biggest carriers, mostly in efforts spearheaded by Legere, have already had bid limits and denials of the ability to bid on the reserve spectrum, or that set aside for smaller carriers, thrown their way and perhaps for good reason. Already dominant in network share in the United States, the pair stand to gain an unbeatable position if they have their way in March’s auction, essentially boxing out smaller competiton such as T-Mobile, Sprint and regional MNVOs.
This time, Legere has asked the FCC to bar Verizon from bidding on low-price, high-value reserved low-band spectrum in twelve select markets where he claims the FCC mistakenly labeled them as deserving of participation in the reserve auction. He pointed a finger to Verizon’s already extensive collection of low-band spectrum in these markets, telling the FCC, “Verizon therefore has an interest in more than one-third of the suitable and available low-band spectrum and is ineligible for the spectrum reserve.”
Legere says that keeping Verizon out of the reserve bidding for these markets is a step toward giving the little guy a chance and keeping the auctions fair. It’s no secret that Legere plans to dominate the reserve auction and lap up what he can in the main auction, which would leave T-Mobile with spectrum that’s strategically useful for their current network build-out plans, rather than leaving them holding the most low-band spectrum or an unnecessarily large amount.
Of the areas that the reserve is broken down into, dubbed Partial Economic Areas, a grand total of 416 PEAs are fair game for T-Mobile and Sprint to bid in, while AT&T is left out in the cold in all but 242 of these areas and majority holder Verizon is allowed to bid in only 112 of the reserve areas. T-Mobile also let the FCC know that it or other parties may point out further flaws in the current plans leading up to the filing deadline. The obvious question here is not whether Legere is trying to use T-Mobile’s underdog status to his advantage in scoring spectrum; he totally is. The questions here are is it morally right, and will it benefit consumers? Both of those are set to be answered in March’s climactic auction, which is shaping up to be one heck of a spectacle in the wireless business. The filing deadlines are in February and the landscape-changing auction is set to begin on March 29.