2008’s 700MHz auction was very good for AT&T and Verizon but not so good for its competitors. Granted, Sprint and T-Mobile have themselves to blame for the outcome of that hugely important spectrum auction since they didn’t make bids in it, but it’s also the case that the smaller carriers are financially outgunned by the wireless industry’s two biggest players. Now the two carriers are teaming up with Dish, several rural wireless carriers and public interest groups such as Public Knowledge to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself with the upcoming auction for spectrum on the 600MHz band.
The coalition of carriers has launched a new website called Save Wireless Choice where they advocate that the government take steps to make sure AT&T and Verizon don’t once again grab all the most valuable 600MHz spectrum. In essence, here are their demands:
- No more delays for the spectrum auction. Both AT&T and Verizon recently spent big on the AWS-3 spectrum auction and they’re hoping for some delays to the 600MHz auction so they can reload their budgets to spend more on spectrum. Sprint, T-Mobile and other carriers want the auction to happen when it’s set to occur in 2016.
- Reserve fully half of all available 600MHz spectrum for smaller carriers. This would obviously be advantageous for Sprint and T-Mobile since they wouldn’t have to go toe-to-toe with Verizon and AT&T for every last chunk of spectrum on the 600MHz band.
The government has typically been reluctant to fence off large chunks of spectrum for smaller players only since it wants to maximize the revenue it gets from every auction. We’ll be interested to see if the smaller carriers can successfully pressure the FCC to wall off more spectrum from the nation’s two largest carriers in the name of fostering more competition in the wireless industry.