FCC's Wheeler Plans Incentive Auction, Reservation of Low-Band Spectrum

By Josh Long Comments
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In an April 17 letter to Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), Wheeler said AT&T and Verizon Wireless control a combined share of nearly two-thirds of the low-band spectrum licenses. By comparison, the other national wireless providers control a combined share of 10 percent, he said.

Wheeler noted wireless providers holding more low-band spectrum provide greater rural coverage.

Wireless Providers Weigh In

AT&T previously told the FCC that restrictions on bidding could dissuade it from participating in the auction.

"By precluding AT&T and Verizon from even bidding for certain blocks, the proposal would essentially create a set aside that eliminates real bidding competition for the benefit of the favored non-restricted companies," Joan Marsh, AT&T vice president-federal regulatory, wrote in an April 16 letter to FCC. "The restrictions would put AT&T in an untenable and unacceptable position. AT&T could either participate in the auction, accepting that it will likely obtain only a fragmented and inefficient 600MHz footprint, or it can choose to withhold its capital for other investments and sit out of the auction entirely."

An FCC official addressed arguments about imposing conditions on the auction.  

"When he (Wheeler) proposes reasonable rules of the road to prevent a single company to run the table at the incentive auction, he is speaking on behalf of consumers and competition," the FCC official said. "Companies are free to advocate the views that are in their best interest, but the public interest is not measured against the business model of one or two companies; it is measured against the ability of the market to deliver the benefits of competition to Americans in urban, suburban and rural America alike."

T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless also have haggled over the incentive auction.  

In an FCC filing April 11, T-Mobile USA sought to rebut Verizon's claim that T-Mobile USA doesn't need additional low-band spectrum simply because it has applied to purchase certain 700 MHz A Block spectrum licenses from Verizon.

"As Verizon well knows, the spectrum that T-Mobile has sought to acquire covers only half the population of the United States and represents only about 4 percent of nationwide low-band spectrum," Trey Hanbury, counsel to T-Mobile USA, wrote.

Spectrum Contingent on Broadcasters' Participation

Bergmann of CTIA said the spectrum auction is exceedingly important to a U.S. wireless industry that invested more than $34 billion last year in networks and towers.

Bergmann said the wireless industry invests billions of dollars purchasing and building out facilities to support new spectrum.

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