T-Mobile USA: AT&T/Qualcomm Deal Highlights Need for Spectrum

A T-Mobile USA executive told the Federal Communications Commission earlier this year that AT&Ts planned acquisition of airwaves from Qualcomm for nearly $2 billion highlights the need for U.S. regulators to free up additional spectrum.

If the Commission decides to approve the transaction, it should therefore act swiftly to make additional spectrum available for wireless broadband services,” wrote Thomas J. Sugrue, T-Mobile USAs Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, in a filing dated March 11, 2011, nine days before AT&T announced plans to acquire T-Mobile USA for $39 billion in cash and stock.

Sugrue alluded to a potential spectrum crunch over time. 

In the longer term T-Mobile and other carriers will need additional spectrum resources, to transition to next generation wireless services and to meet the explosive growth in consumer demand for more bandwidth-intensive mobile voice, video, and data offerings,” wrote Sugrue, who asked the FCC to complete its ongoing spectrum inventory and immediately begin proceedings to reallocate spectrum.

The FCC is nearly halfway through its 180-day review of AT&Ts plans to acquire spectrum licenses from Qualcomm in the Lower 700 MHz frequency band.

Last week some AT&T competitors and consumer groups asked the FCC to consolidate its review of the Qualcomm deal with the T-Mobile USA merger examination.   

Both the T-Mobile merger and the Qualcomm license transfer, if approved, would further empower an already dominant wireless carrier to leverage its control over devices, backhaul, and consumers in ways that stifle competition,” wrote M. Chris Riley, counsel for Free Press, in a letter dated April 27, 2011 to the FCC on behalf of several public interest organizations, including Consumers Union.

If the FCC does not deny the proposed Qualcomm license transfer, it should combine its review of the Qualcomm and T-Mobile USA proceedings to enable a full and complete competitive analysis,” Riley stated.

AT&T said that would be inappropriate. 

These are two completely separate proceedings and should remain so,” Reuters quoted an AT&T spokesperson in an article published April 27th.  

In December, AT&T revealed plans to acquire airwaves from Qualcomm for $1.925 billion 

The spectrum covers about 300 million people nationwide and encompasses key markets, including Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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