T-Mobile Challenges FCC Incentive Auction Proposal

T-Mobile has asked the FCC to reserve more low-band spectrum for companies competing with Verizon and AT&T for wireless spectrum in the upcoming broadcast incentive auction, arguing that the current system does not insure the four competitive carriers the FCC has signaled it would like to see.

It also wants the FCC to modify the revenue trigger for reserving that spectrum.

That came in a petition for reconsideration filed with the FCC, pegged in part to recent statements from the chairman about the importance of four, competitive wireless services, and the chairman's signal he wanted to prevent joint bidding by wireless carriers.

"Reconsideration is warranted when additional facts were not known or did not exist until after the petitioner's last opportunity to present analysis to the Commission," said T-Mobile. [N]ew facts about the desirability of no less than four nationwide competitors alter the viability of the Commission's reserve framework. Prior to the Mobile Spectrum Holdings Report and Order, neither the Commission nor the Chairman had articulated the importance of having four nationwide carriers given the current market structure.23 T-Mobile and other competitive carriers had no opportunity to address the size of the reserve in light of either the Commission's apparent commitment to a four-carrier market, or the circulation of a Commission notice of proposed rulemaking that would reverse precedent permitting joint bidding among nationwide carriers."

T-Mobile says that the fCC was absolutely right in reserving blocks contingent on getting enough money in the auction, but that it should have reserved four blocks for competitive carriers and three unreserved blocks for dominant carriers, rather than the other way around, if it is so concerned about having four competing services.

"In addition, the Order inexplicably ties the trigger for creating the reserve licenses to satisfaction of an arbitrary price per unit that does nothing to advance competition or any of the other goals of the Communications Act and instead risks undermining the very competition the Commission seeks to promote," blogged Kathleen Ham, VP or regulatory affairs, for T-Mobile.

"Preserving four robust nationwide competitors requires that all four carriers have access to sufficient low-band (below-1-GHz) spectrum necessary to compete," says T-Mobile in the petition, pointing out that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said four carriers were good for consumers, a point he made in response to T-Mobile and Sprint's announcement they had called off merger talks--called off in the face of signals from the FCC and Justice that the deal would be an uphill climb.

The company says that the way the reserve is structured, only one competitor (either T-Mobile or Sprint, for instance but not both), could secure the 20 MHz of spectrum the FCC has said is particularly valuable for broadband deployment."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.