Sprint and T-Mobile know they can’t just stand idly by like they did in the 2008 when both Verizon and AT&T cleaned house in the hugely important 700MHz spectrum auction that gave America’s top two wireless carriers a big advantage in building high-speed LTE networks. Now The Wall Street Journal reports that Sprint and T-Mobile are joining forces to together raise $10 billion to spend on spectrum holdings in the the upcoming 600MHz auction.

This will be a hugely important auction for both T-Mobile and Sprint, which have been at a persistent disadvantage compared with Verizon and AT&T because they’ve lacked access to contiguous chunks of low-frequency spectrum that you need to build a top-notch nationwide mobile data network. Winning big in next year’s auction would go a long way toward helping T-Mobile and Sprint catch up and start to aggressively challenge the big two established carriers even more.

Verizon and AT&T won’t take this laying down, of course, and Sprint and T-Mobile should expect that they’ll have quite a fight on their hands. Nonetheless, it’s encouraging to see that next year’s big spectrum auction might actually be competitive.