All Carriers Must have the Opportunity to Participate in the Upcoming Auction; Not just AT&T
April 16, 2014 – Earlier today, AT&T filed an ex parte with the FCC essentially threatening to sit out of the upcoming 600 MHz spectrum auction because AT&T is not getting everything it asked for. Is anyone really surprised by AT&T’s reaction? I, for one, am not – this is simply more of the same from the nation’s second largest carrier. The FCC is trying to create a pro-competitive auction that gives every carrier an opportunity to bid on and win much needed interoperable low-band spectrum. Using a bright-line limit of the amount of spectrum any one carrier can acquire, after achieving sufficient competition in the auction, is one way to foster competition. Another way to address current inequities is to use a nationwide MHz population-weighted spectrum screen, which is one of the options CCA has proposed. AT&T and Verizon own almost 80% of all low band spectrum nationwide – a fact that AT&T time and again tries to downplay by claiming that low-band spectrum isn’t that much different from high-band spectrum, despite its continuing attempts to aggregate low-band spectrum. The FCC’s aggregation framework will help competitive carriers get access to critical low-band spectrum necessary to compete in a 4G-LTE market. Let’s not forget that the ultimate goal is to bring high speed broadband services to every American in all areas – rural, suburban and urban.
AT&T’s letter filed today fails to recognize that carriers can aggregate across spectrum bands, so AT&T could in fact use spectrum in its current portfolio at 700 MHz and aggregate at 600 MHz. With the right incentives, the FCC could realistically clear 70 MHz of auctionable 600 MHz spectrum, which would allow AT&T to acquire in the incentive auction up to 40 MHz of unreserved spectrum. That’s a lot of spectrum of any one band, especially 600 MHz spectrum, considering the superior propagation characteristics. And it fulfills AT&T’s stated demand for 10 x 10 or larger allocations. If it truly values low-band spectrum, AT&T will compete vigorously to acquire this spectrum. From its statement, it appears AT&T doesn’t want to compete for the spectrum, but rather walk away with superior low-band spectrum for a song, shutting out its competitors from the ecosystem, just like it did in the 700 MHz spectrum for years.
AT&T continues to oppose any limitations or eligibility rules that might bring multiple carriers into the auction and access to low-band 600 MHz spectrum. Threatening not to bid in the auction unless it gets its way rings hollow and is more like a chest-thumping roar of disappointment over pro-competitive policies that will nurture a successful auction.