T-Mobile launches campaign against ‘dark duopoly’ of AT&T, Verizon; AT&T hits back

WASHINGTON–The FCC meets next month to vote on rules for next year’s massive auction of wireless spectrum, and already the leading carriers are fighting for advantage.

A pedestrian looks at a mobile phone while walking past an AT&T Inc. store. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

T-Mobile, in particular, has for the past year been arguing that Verizon and Dallas-based AT&T already control too much of the low-band spectrum, the most valuable range, and that allowing them to get more will drive out meaningful competition.

But the campaign got more personal in the past 24 hours. CEO John Legere launched a high-profile social media campaign late yesterday urging wireless users to join him in a revolution to defeat “the dark force” of AT&T and Verizon, which he said together form a “duopoly” poised to drown out competition for wireless service.

And last night, T-Mobile filed a petition with the FCC urging the commissioners to stop AT&T’s separate plans to buy low-band spectrum in three mostly rural markets in Kentucky, West Virginia and southeastern Ohio.

“The competitive harms resulting from the proposed transaction greatly outweigh any potential benefits AT&T has or could advance,” T-Mobile said in its filing.

AT&T pushed back on Tuesday. Joan Marsh, vice president of federal regulatory affairs at AT&T, wrote on the firm’s public policy blog that T-Mobile should stop whining.

“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.

“T-Mobile’s disdain for rural investment has long been evident. 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.”

The spat over the rural bandwidth is small potatoes, but T-Mobile sees it as part of its larger campaign: Namely, that AT&T and Verizon simply control too much of the available spectrum.

Think of spectrum as the number of lanes on a highway. The more you lanes (spectrum) you have, the more traffic (consumers’ data usage) you can handle. More and more of us have wireless devices, and as we can do more with our phones, we’re using more data, too.

As a result, every carrier, and a wide range of other players too, wants more spectrum because users are consuming more and more data every month.

Hence the especially high stakes for T-Mobile in the auction slated for next year. The FCC will auction spectrum rights off one by one in designated market areas all over the country. It’s expected to bring in tens of billions of dollars. In January, an auction of spectrum rights (the government keeps title) raised $45 billion. Next year’s auction will likely bring more because the spectrum up for bid is more valuable.

T-Mobile has been complaining that AT&T an Verizon have too much already, and last June the FCC listened as it set preliminary rules for next year’s auction.

If it ends up offering 100 megahertz in the auction, the FCC will set aside 30 megahertz of that total for a second, reserve auction. Only certain firms will qualify to bid on that reserve spectrum — and except in a few small areas, AT&T and Verizon won’t be among them.

But now, T-Mobile that reserve amount upped. It wants 40Mhz of spectrum to be reserved, and put out of reach of AT&T and Verizon.

In making his case on Twitter, Legere urges customers in the Batman-inspired animation to join it in a fight to clean up “this broken, arrogant industry.”

But it will be up to the FCC, come July 16, to decide whether Legere and his company are the victims they’ve made themselves out to be.

 

[“source – bizbeatblog.dallasnews.com”]