T-Mobile Tries to Block AT&T Low-Band Spectrum Buy

T-Mobile has asked the Federal Communications Commission to deny the transfer of low-band spectrum to AT&T through a secondary market transaction.

T-Mobile has been asking the FCC to set aside more low-band spectrum for competitive carriers -- like T-Mobile -- in the upcoming incentive auction, pointing out that AT&T and Verizon combined already have mode than two-thirds of that beachfront spectrum nationwide. T-Mobile is also trying to prevent AT&T from getting any more spectrum through a proposed purchase of spectrum from East Kentucky Network.

"AT&T has failed to meet the applicable heightened standards for demonstrating that the proposed transaction is in the public interest when balanced with the serious anticompetitive risks posed by the increased concentration of below-1-GHz spectrum," T-Mobile said in petitioning to deny the sale.

Elsewhere T-Mobile and its CEO, John Legere, are hammering AT&T and Verizon for their low-band holdings in a new Web video pushing the FCC to expand its incentive auction low-band spectrum set-aside.

In a blog post, Joan Marsh, AT&T VP, federal regulatory, responded to the petition.

"The purchase will give AT&T the needed spectrum footprint to deploy up to a 10×10 MHz LTE network in these markets, which will enable AT&T to offer faster and higher quality services to its rural customers," said Marsh. "The proposed transaction also has no adverse competitive effects. AT&T will not exceed the Commission’s spectrum aggregation screen and — because the spectrum at issue currently sits completely fallow and unused – the deal will not reduce any actual competition. Yet, T-Mobile complains, arguing that AT&T should not be permitted to buy and deploy this fallow spectrum and that AT&T should not be allowed to invest in these rural communities to deploy high quality LTE services."

"Looking at T-Mobile’s current and proposed coverage maps, it's readily apparent that T-Mobile offers very little coverage in these markets today," said Marsh. "Moreover, even as it purportedly expands to cover 300M POPs by the end of 2015, T-Mobile has only limited plans to invest in the rural markets covered by these licenses."

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.