CCA and T-Mobile rally against AT&T 700MHz deal

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AT&T is working on a deal to acquire a pair of Lower 700MHz B Block licenses that it says is meant to enhance its existing B Block footprint and support a 10x10MHz LTE deployment in 700MHz markets. It argues that the FCC has found that deals that allow for 10x10MHz LTE rollouts serve the public interest, and so its deal should go through. However, the Competitive Carriers Association and T-Mobile don’t agree.

CCA President Steve Berry says that AT&T still hasn’t proven “why it needs so much low-band spectrum in rural markets and how this transaction significantly benefits the public interest.” Berry tells FierceWireless that the FCC’s enhanced factor analysis — which is meant to give an “enhanced review” to transactions that result in one carrier gaining control of one-third of low-band spectrum in a market — isn’t doing what it’s meant to do.

“These transactions, in addition to AT&T’s buying spree before the enhanced factor analysis was created, make for a dangerous case of further spectrum aggregation into the hands of one of the largest national carriers,” Berry adds. He believes that AT&T has’t shown any real way that its deal will benefit the public interest or any evidence that it needs more low-band spectrum to increase network capacity.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile has agreed with Berry’s arguments, saying that “AT&T simply wants to grab more low-band spectrum to depress competition, reduce investment, and stifle competition.”

While AT&T already controls a large amount of low-band spectrum, it believes that it should have no issue acquiring these Lower 700MHz B Block licenses because it will use the airwaves to improve its existing coverage for its customers. However, the CCA and T-Mobile believe that the big blue operator is just trying to gobble up more low-band airwaves. With the CCA and T-Mobile putting up such an opposition to this new AT&T deal, it’ll be interesting to see how the FCC responds.

Sources: AT&T, FierceWireless

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  • Durandal_1707

    So…….. anyone want to mention what areas these licenses are actually in?

    Seems like kind of an important detail. I guess it’s in some “rural markets”, but still.

    • brybry

      monopoly much? lol how can one compete with no spectrum?

  • Big Ben

    At the end of the day, if AT&T acquires more low band spectrum which in turn increases their monopoly, all consumers will suffer as competition will slow down or move at snails pace.

    Most importantly, they will have the ability to charge all consumers higher prices at the same time lower the quality for what they get as consumers have no choice but to go to whatever carrier has the better coverage if it’s only AT&T or Verizon. Similar to the cable companies.

    FCC needs to prevent this kind of monopolistic activity from taking place. If they continue and allow this then we all suffer as everyone will have to pay higher prices if not now, but later in the long run.

    • Too late to prevent it. The FCC has blown their chance to stop it by refusing to adopt Band 44 as the official 700 spectrum for LTE.

  • vinnyjr

    AT&T is just grabbing as much low band spectrum to keep T-Mobile from buying it. AT&T has no plans on using it, they already have plenty of low band they haven’t and will never use. T-Mobile needs it and will use it. Hopefully the FCC stops this.

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    • Durandal_1707

      Fortunately, T-Mobile has the A-block for the areas that this article is talking about, so they’re not locked out. It’s just a matter of how much spectrum they have.

    • AT&T has no plans to use the B blocks, and they just opened up a third 700 band: Band 29. The FCC is a joke for refusing to adopt the Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) Plan for the 700 LTE spectrum. That would have stopped all this nonsense.

  • steveb944

    “It argues that the FCC has found that deals that allow for 10x10MHz LTE rollouts serve the public interest, and so it’s deal should go through.”

    Wow what a joke.

    • Fabian Cortez

      Pretty much. Especially when one considers the following statement by CCA President Steve Berry:

      “AT&T’s latest missive fails to address the Commission’s recent finding in its Order on Reconsideration of its Mobile Spectrum Holdings Report and Order that ’10×10 MHz blocks of [low-band spectrum are] not required for effective mobile deployment,’ and also fails to explain why it must further aggregate low-band spectrum to meet its claimed need to ‘increase network capacity.'”

  • moonoverparma

    The government maintains that we must have 4 national carriers for competitive reasons but refuses to let Sprint or T-Mobile be competitive.

    • Fabian Cortez

      The government maintains that we must have 4 national carriers for competitive reasons but refuses to let Sprint or T-Mobile be competitive.

      How so?

      Are you insinuating that sending signals that a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile as a no go makes the FCC look like a hypocrite?

      • moonoverparma

        Yep

        • Fabian Cortez

          Yep

          Well then that would be an incorrect assessment as even your own words state “the government maintains that we must have 4 national carriers for competitive reasons.”

          How would this be feasible if Sprint and T-Mobile merge?

        • moonoverparma

          Huh? The government wants 4 national carriers for competitive reasons. No mergers allowed. But continuously allows AT&T and Verizon to have their way and keeps Sprint and T-Mobile from being competitive. I think my original comment speaks for itself.

        • Fabian Cortez

          Huh? The government wants 4 national carriers for competitive reasons. No mergers allowed. But continuously allows AT&T and Verizon to have their way and keeps Sprint and T-Mobile from being competitive. I think my original comment speaks for itself.

          How is the government allowing AT&T and Verizon to have their way?

          A reserve was set for the incentive auction and “in May 2014 the FCC approved new rules that said transactions resulting in a carrier gaining control of one-third of the spectrum below 1 GHz in a given market — which equates to roughly 45 MHz of low-band spectrum — “will be subject to enhanced review” in the FCC’s case-by-case competitive evaluation of spectrum deals.”

        • Because that’s FCC speak for “aw, shucks, just give me the money and take it.”

    • Yea. The same government that also maintains that we must have four national mobile operating systems, but doesn’t say jack about the shenanigans Apple and Google pull on Microsoft and Blackberry.

  • ATT is just grabbing spectrum before T-Mobile would. ATT already has plenty of spectrum below 1 GHz, it’s called band 5. Their stated reason is already fulfilled by this spectrum at 850 MHz. It’s nothing but the duopoly, so favored by the FCC, making sure that their position is not challenged, in collusion with the government.

  • Joe

    I’m just wondering why does t-mobile not try and buy any of the small chunks of b block and c block spectrum that has not been bought by at&t? That would also improve coverage for even some of the older devices that don’t have band 12.

    • That’s a good question. I can only speculate that, since they are the bulk of the spectrum of their current owners, which are mostly small, local cellular operators, their price doesn’t make business sense. I suspect that, if they did, ATT would have already bought them out.

  • Shawn

    At&t have always been a sh** company.

    • FILA

      I honestly believe and this is just me, that T-Mobile knew the ATT deal would never ever go through on so many reasons, but ATT got to happy. Thats why T-Mobile made the deal if ATT doesnt buy us, we get money, spectrum and all that. T-Mobile played AT&T and it worked perfectly :-)