Next year is a pretty big year for wireless carriers in the US. It’ll be the last auction of low-band spectrum for about another decade. Low-band spectrum is like candy to wireless carriers, simply because it means that they can cover more people with less towers. Additionally, it means that they will get better coverage inside. T-Mobile didn’t have any low-band spectrum until they bought the 700MHz from Verizon earlier this year. So they are really looking forward to this auction happening in early 2016. T-Mobile has been doing everything it can to make the auction fair, and make sure that AT&T and Verizon can’t squeeze out the smaller guys like T-Mobile. The magenta carrier has gotten their way a little bit here, but not much.
Last week, AT&T’s executives meet with the FCC. In particular, they met with the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, Wireless Bureau, and Media Bureau last week in Washington. AT&T’s SVP of federal regulatory, Joan Marsh, stated in the FCC filing that the purpose was “to explore in more detail what an organized, efficient and expeditions broadcaster repacking process will entail”. The carrier also noted that they have run numerous simulations, and found that after the auction of the 600MHz spectrum next year, around 1200 TV stations will need to be repacked and moved into a lower 600MHz band. This is so that the TV stations don’t interfere with the wireless carriers networks.
In this meeting, AT&T also noted to the FCC, the need for a quick and efficient repacking process. This way carriers that bid on and win licenses in this spectrum auction can get them as soon as possible. The carrier also asked the commission when they can expect to get their licenses. Wells Fargo analysts have stated before that they expect AT&T to spend around $10 billion on a 2×10 MHz block of spectrum that will have nationwide capability. Meanwhile, T-Mobile is expected to spend as much as $8 billion and Verizon just $5 billion. While Sprint has already mentioned that they will be sitting out of this auction, claiming that they have plenty of spectrum already with the 800MHz picked up in the Nextel merger.