T-Mobile joins Sprint and others in asking FCC to review AT&T spectrum acquisitions


In a letter to the FCC’s chairman, Tom Wheeler and a few other FCC commissioners, T-Mobile, Sprint and a few other organizations have asked the commission to review AT&T’s recent low-frequency spectrum purchases. The purchases in question are predominantly for blocks of 700MHz B and C block spectrum. The other companies include Public Knowledge, Free Press, the New America Foundation, Comptel, the Computer & Communications Industry Association and the Writers Guild of America, West.

Earlier this year, the Commission ruled that deals that lead to any carrier grabbing control of 1/3rd of the spectrum below 1GHz in any individual market should be “subject to enhanced review”.

“Seizing on an as-yet undefined ‘enhanced factor’ review for low-band spectrum concentration, AT&T recently filed for a number of transactions that, if granted, would result in AT&T holding more than 45 MHz of low-band spectrum in numerous markets. AT&T is a dominant carrier nationally and in these regions; therefore, the Commission should carefully scrutinize such applications to give meaning to the high hurdle ‘enhanced factor’ review creates and to protect against further anti -competitive concentration of low-band spectrum.”

As reported by Fierce Wireless, AT&T has bought up several blocks of spectrum of the past few months:

  • Star Wireless, 700MHz C Block – 4 blocks in Wisconsin and Iowa
  • Consolidated Telephone Company, 700MHz C block – 2 blocks in Minnesota
  • KanOkla Telephone Association, 700MHz C Block – 1 block in Kansas, another in Oklahoma
  • Kaplan Telephone Company, 700MHz C Block – several blocks
  • Worldcall, 700MHz B Block – 2 blocks in Puerto Rico
  • Club 42 CM Limited Partnership, 700MHz – 2 blocks in California

AT&T is – of course – convinced that even after any enhance review by the FCC, the regulatory body will conclude that “these small deals will cause no harm to competition and will result in significant public interest benefits”. And, although the company may be right with that presumption, I can’t help but feel the pang of the carrier’s failed bid to buyout T-Mobile which was also “in the best interest of the U.S. consumer.”

AT&T isn’t alone in purchasing several blocks of low-band spectrum. T-Mobile has also been busy adding airwaves to its network arsenal over the past few months, having agreed deals covering 18 million POPs. Around 15.88 million of which have been made public: 

  • Actel – 6.4 million POPs
  • I-700 A Block LLC – 1.1 million POPs
  • McBride Spectrum Partners – 2.91 million POPs
  • Frontier Communications – 1.51 million POPs
  • Thomas Kurian – 623k POPs
  • David Miller – 903k
  • Triad – 2.43 million POPs

This is on top of the mega-deal with Verizon earlier this year which saw 158 million POPs covered. That said, T-Mobile’s spectrum buys have been for fairly small blocks. In most cases only having bought 12MHz blocks of spectrum. Nowhere near the 45MHz AT&T is said to have purchased. Whether or not the FCC will side with the smaller companies is yet to be seen. But one thing’s clear, from this and John Legere’s recent complaints at the Big Two, T-Mobile feels that competition isn’t fair and that VZW and AT&T have to much money and too much spectrum.

Source: FCC, Fierce Wireless

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  • markw

    Just wondering if Legere, who spent 23 years as an AT&T senior executive complains when AT&T deposits his retirement checks every month. Its said that he’s worth over $100 million dollars. Since he hates big blue so vehemently, and sure as hell doesn’t need the money, maybe he could donate it to a worthwhile charity. What a Phony!

    • Dan Hesse

      What a stupid comment… Give away his money lol. You’re an idiot.

      • TechHog

        He’s not an idiot. He’s just a communist.

        • Dan Hesse

          Now who’s the idiot? This has nothing to do with communism you moron. More with envy and jealousy. Last I heard that has nothing to do with communism – if anything it’s a human character flaw. #justsaying

        • TechHog

          Read the above comment.

        • kalel33

          You’re one of those people that don’t know the difference between Socialism and Communism, aren’t you?

        • TechHog

          I know the difference. He’s essentially saying that people should only have as much money as they need to live, which is more along the lines of communism than socialism. Now, do you know the difference?

        • Dan Hesse

          You just jumped a giant cliff jumping to that conclusion. Do you have the reading comprehension skills of a child? Lol, he did not mention anything remotely related to socialism or communism. By your stupid reasoning we could also argue a capitalist would say he doesn’t need any more money if he’s already well off. Capitalism isn’t about hoarding you moron. You really don’t know what you’re talking about. If I had to guess you’re not very educated so you just learn these words from people that throw them around without really understanding their meaning.

          I took issue with the idea that someone should give away their money to prove a point. As if rejecting AT&T’s money is showing them up lol. Man both of you are idiots. Keep your stupid ideas of politics off this blog, that is unless you at least have a clue about what you’re talking about.

        • kalel33

          So your definition of Communism is that people only get the money they need to live. That would mean nobody in China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, and North Korea have no more money than what they need to live. Huh, I guess I had it wrong the whole time. (sarcasm).

    • yaby1979

      Amen!! Google John Legere Congressional hearings on Global Crossings. He laid off 8,000 at Global Crossings and took an 8 million dollar bonus! Senators asked Legere how many jobs could he have saved if he didn’t take an 8 million dollar bonus. He said he didnt know the math. When he got back to his plush office at Global Crossings employees had left over 20 calculators on his desk as an insult! Phony indeed!!

      • Dan Hesse

        I believe in second chances lol. He’s been rehabilitated, re-educated and rejuvenated your honor – and it didn’t take any jail time like perhaps you would have liked your honor.

        Anyway, if you knew anything about Global Crossing you would realize those lay-offs were legit. The company was part of the Internet bubble and their assets were not generating revenue that could sustain 8,000. You might have an issue with executive pay, but that doesn’t justify not laying off 8,000 that worked for a company that was stuck with a lot unused dark fiber cables several leagues under the sea.

      • David Thoren

        8m divided by approx 50k – 100k means 80 – 160 jobs for a single year (I’m going to include all employer costs there, so 50k is about as low as I am willing to go there as the average cost of an employee). A rather small drop in the bucket (1-2%) compared to the 8000 jobs cut.
        Not to mention that the fewer jobs cut would have cost the the company for any year past one if he were to save as many as possible. It’s really not as simple as doing the math I did above as you have to include the following years in the calculation.

    • Mike Palomba

      He worked for that money so he can do what he wants with it. I know if it were me I’d keep it. Go away and don’t criticize legere because he’s the only Wireless CEO who’s pro consumer

    • Christopher Reed

      I love people who always say crap like – “why does he/she need all that money!”, or “Give all that money away” – lmfao, when was the last time you gave money? If the man earned it, or the company offered it – why is he a Phony for accepting it, like you wouldn’t? stfu, and put your energy into earning some money yourself – stop blaming everything and everyone else for where you are, be proactive not reactive and maybe you’ll accomplish something..dam, sorry – im just so sick of everyone wanting everything for free with no work involved and the whole bitching about what people make – who in there right mind says no boss, I don’t need that 8 million dollar bonus, we should donate it to all the whiners that complain and propose no solutions.
      “You have what we call, an irrational sense of entitlement. It wont kill you, but it will cause you to believe that you deserve sh*t for doing nothing.

      • x646x

        Classic RWer with no idea what you are talking about. Prove that anyone wealthy actually earned their money without scamming others.

        • X13

          Innocent until proven guilty. You prove that it was all a scam

        • x646x

          Ah nice dodge. Funny how the same rationale doesn’t apply to claims that we want something for nothing. What’s even funnier is to see the very demographic cough cough who utilize tmobile rooting for the 1%.

          Guys might want to look in the mirror or your actual paycheck as money says that you are not in the 1%.

        • Christopher Reed

          This has nothing to do with a party – they both suck. But lets explore your theory – please explain what should be done and how you feel it should be. I’m sure you have never scammed anyone (paid less at a register and said nothing, accepted something for free, or worked a deal to your favor – keep in mind, following your logic, everything should be earned and proven worthy of said earned item). X13 is also correct, this is still America, for now, and innocent until proven guilty should still apply, even for you. (just an FYI before you start to assassinate my character, I am genuinely interested in your take on this, so please elaborate.) Your response should not contain any rhetoric about how fair is equal and equal is fair, this simply isn’t true. Sorry if I offend, I just don’t get this whole movement in America of envy – we used to thrive to achieve greatness, now we just tear each other down and assassinate each others merit.

          (Tv Show, but still true)

          (Adam Corrola – simple truth)

          (Dave Ramsey – about fair)

          In closing I do find it rather disgusting that most forums are filled with people fighting over stuff we cant control – instead of being pissed off that we all are being taken advantage of by people that claim to want to take care of us.

        • Mark

          Prove they didn’t.

    • Brian Perez

      Its all about compétition.. Carriers call each other out all the time you obviously dont know that.

    • Brian Perez

      Its all about compétition.. Carriers call each other out all the time you obviously dont know that.

    • Bravadu

      How about those government haters donate their social security money to charity or just return it?
      How about you donate all your money to charity? See how easy it is for me to tell you what to do with YOUR money?

      Plus if he refused the money, wouldn’t AT&T get to keep that money?

      • TMOTECH

        I would gladly give all of my social security money to charity if they would let me opt out of it for the rest of my life.

  • GinaDee

    Pot calling the kettle black here.

    All carriers want low band spectrum. AT&T with over 100 million subs needs more particularly in areas underserved.

    From a spectrum to population standpoint T-Mobile has more available spectrum per user. It’s up to them to cough up the money and make deals of their own. I could understand if T-Mobile legitimately wanted to “expand,” coverage nationally to 300 million plus POPS but right now they appear happy with their urban strategy and these are areas they already have plenty of spectrum to go around.

    I don’t blame AT&T here. They are in it to win it just like everyone else.

    I really think the only thing T-Mobile is hoping to accomplish is to slow things down and make it harder for AT&T. That’s what the lobbying is for. Pure smoke and mirrors.

    We all know AT&T is going to go really big with the AWS3 and 600 MHz auctions. This will no doubt give them the ubiquitous nationwide spectrum they need to meet or exceed Verizon’s LTE coverage and that’s scary for guys like T-Mobile and Sprint.

    • Kidney_Thief

      The problem is AT&T has more spectrum than they reasonably need and their reason for buying more is because they’re “spectrum constrained,” even though they haven’t even deployed all of their spectrum, much less all their low band spectrum. Meanwhile, the gap in spectrum holdings between Verizon and AT&T gets bigger and bigger and bigger. AT&T’s average spectrum holdings amount to 160 MHz compared to Verizon’s 120 MHz.

      • Bravadu

        If you buy it, the others can’t, and that’s how you keep the others worse than you. Even if you don’t plan on using it all yourself.

    • Jay J. Blanco

      I cant believe you said that tmpbile has been buying 700mhz like crazy to IV expand coverage and upgrading 2g areas nationwide. Tmobile needs more low band so they are on the orow to get it.

      • GinaDee

        Sure they have. I agree with you. That doesn’t mean they plan to expand coverage to more people it just means they plan to use it to roll out LTE with better propagation characteristics in rural areas where they currently have a GPRS/EDGE network or in urban areas for better in-building penetration.

        T-Mobile is a great company. But they are basically slamming AT&T for what they are doing themselves; that is, buying as much low band spectrum as they can get their hands on. Sprint is the same way. They’ll slam AT&T for trying to buy T-Mobile but then turn around and try to do the same thing. It’s all for theatre.

        AT&T’s network is huge but it’s also cobbled together and they lack the ubiquitous greenfield nationwide spectrum that Verizon has that’s why they too have to get 700 MHz spectrum wherever they can. They want to roll out VoLTE as quickly as they can and low band unused LTE spectrum is the fastest way for them to do it.

        • Jay J. Blanco

          Of course it mean they are going to expand. Because it’s cost effective with low band spectrum. They are slamming AT&T because they own 700mhz and 800mhz nationwide. I’ve seen the 700mhz maps. AT&T doesn’t have capacity problems in rural areas all they need is AWS and 2.3GHZ to deal with that. They are gobbling 700mhz for a reason. Just watch

        • kalel33

          We’ll actually see if they expand. I live in Southern Colorado(where they bought a huge chunk of 700mhz spectrum) and I travel throughout that area for my job. It’ll be interesting if they actually expand their network here or just using the spectrum bought for the urban areas.

        • x646x

          what percentage of sub 1ghz spectrum does tmobile hold? No carrier in the US can be a real player without sub 1ghz spectrum. To say that tmobile is basically being like AT&T shows little knowledge of the wireless sector.

        • Kogashuko

          The difference is that TMobile will share with other carriers too. Both VZW and ATT buy the spectrum and then do everything in their power to prevent roaming.

  • kev2684

    looks like those spectrum holders wasn’t using it anyway. let the big dogs buy and use the spectrum for consumers and let them buy out everyone who sits on the spectrum for more $$$. the rule should only apply if multiple carriers are bidding on it and/or the market NEEDS this rule.

  • TechHog

    AT&T: “Here’s another $50 million, Mr. Wheeler. Take this lobby and make your own decision! Oh, and let me throw in another $100 million to express my opinion on net neutrality.”

    • Oliver Jackson


  • monkeybutts

    700A is nice but T-mobile should try and buy some B and C licenses too, a lot of their phones already support B and C but not A.

    Any low band is better than no low band

  • Aurizen

    I just wont T-mobile to get some compatible low band spectrum’s so customers wont have to be forced to buy new phones right away.

    • superg05

      the newer galaxy note devices and avant

  • vinnyjr

    The FCC has to step in and sort out the spectrum so the smaller Carriers have a shot at competing on fair grounds. T-Mobile needs low band spectrum in the mid-west and western US. The Boston area is completely covered with low band according to the latest T-Mobile coverage map. I get fantastic service, LTE has no problem penetrating my house, probably because the tower is very close. I get 5 bars all the time, I know others aren’t that lucky. I’m a long time customer who had poor service years ago but stuck it out, other Carriers in my area had lousy service, much worse than T-Mobile. T-Mobile with low-band spectrum could push them right over the top.
    Thank You T-Mobile.

    • Oliver Jackson

      which coverage map Vinny?

  • ada

    typo :”VZW and AT&T have to much money and too much spectrum.”

    • Brzfld

      typo: *too much money

    • Art Faucett

      Dude, if you can’t comprehend using “too” more than once in a sentence, maybe you should work on your own grammar before you throw stones at others.

  • notyourbusiness

    Good ol’ AT&T being anti-competitive as usual. Wouldn’t expect anything less from them.

  • x646x

    I think you missed the point of that video and it isn’t that we are getting “sh-t for free”. Quite the contrary actually, hence wages stagnate for 30 years straight, versus the 275% increase during the same period for the top 1%.

    It’s that we once lead the world and after 30 years of failed no government / minimal investment / stagnate wages, basically Reagonimcs, the rest of the world is running circles around us.

    Rest of the world as in the other 18 Big Gov Federalist countries that are now wealthier than us – per capita. No offense, but a bathroom in a liberal city buys an entire house out in R voting Middle-America today.

    • Christopher Reed

      I agree its lopsided – we were economically better off during Clinton years when companies had 35ish% tax rate – I guess my point was simply this – We were once great because we all worked together, now we all fight – much like the newsroom clip I posted.. actually makes me sad. have you watched Zeitgeist? That’s what’s really going on