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T-Mobile Says Government Should Set Auction Rules to Help It Win Airwaves

CEO John Legere says the FCC should rejigger rules to help smaller players compete with Verizon and AT&T.

A recent government auction of airwaves might have raised $45 billion for taxpayers, but as far as T-Mobile CEO John Legere is concerned, it was “a disaster for American wireless consumers.”

That’s according to a new blog post Legere released Wednesday afternoon, basically calling on federal regulators to set rules for an upcoming auction of airwaves next year to help T-Mobile to more cheaply win a big chunk of licenses.

AT&T and Verizon won the bulk of the airwaves at the last auction because, unlike T-Mobile, they actually spent a lot of money winning them.

According to Legere: “AT&T and Verizon showed that they can, and will, dig into their deep pockets to corner the market on available spectrum at nearly any cost. To add insult to injury, the FCC’s rules actually allowed companies that don’t provide wireless service at all to buy up huge amounts of spectrum and sit on it for ten years! The results are not good for consumers. Three companies alone spent an insane $42 billion between them, grabbing a ridiculous 94 percent of the spectrum sold at this auction.”

All of the wireless carriers have been fighting about how to set rules for the upcoming auction because the FCC is getting ready to sell some of the most prime airwave licenses around. They’re for airwaves that are currently being used by TV stations, and signals travel long distances on them, making them great for wireless broadband services. Some TV stations are expected to offer to sell their airwaves (and either share airwaves with another station or go out of business) for the auction.

T-Mobile and Sprint have lobbied for regulators to set aside airwaves for smaller carriers (basically, anyone but AT&T and Verizon) that don’t currently have many licenses for the former TV airwaves. AT&T and Verizon have complained about that set-aside.

In the blog post, Legere essentially suggests the FCC hold the auction on time (as opposed to pushing it off another year, allowing AT&T and Verizon more time to raise money). He also says the government should be “reserving 40 MHz or at least half of the available spectrum in the next auction for sale to the competition” and tack on requirements forcing carriers to use the airwaves within a few years instead of warehousing it or selling it to other carriers.

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