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T-Mobile CEO John Legere Wants You to Give a Shit About Spectrum

T-Mobile wants consumers to agree that smaller carriers should get preference in next year's auction for airwaves previously held by TV broadcasters.

Asa Mathat

T-Mobile CEO John Legere has had considerable success getting wireless consumers on his side, but he faces an uphill battle in his latest quest: Convincing them to care about an upcoming spectrum auction and the rules that govern it.

Next year, the Federal Communications Commission will oversee an auction of wireless airwaves currently held by TV broadcasters. Legere wants regulators to set aside more spectrum for smaller carriers rather than giving AT&T and Verizon the potential to bid on the bulk of the available spectrum.

In a video blog Thursday, Legere urged people to make their voices heard to the FCC, which is in the process of finalizing the rules for the auction, slated to take place next year.

“There’s some serious shit about to go down in D.C., and if you’re one of the 180 million Americans out there using a smartphone and you’re not pissed off right now, then you’re not paying attention — but you need to,” Legere said, kicking off his case for why Verizon and AT&T shouldn’t be allowed to potentially run the table.

Spectrum is, as Legere says, the lifeblood of the wireless industry. It is key to calls and texts going through as well as to the fast data speeds that consumers crave.

Legere and T-Mobile’s lobbying team have been making the same point for months now, but they don’t appear, so far, to have swayed FCC officials to their side.

Here’s the problem Legere’s argument has been running into in D.C.: Last year, the FCC set aside upward of 30 megahertz of airwaves licenses (which is a huge chunk of space) for smaller carriers (i.e., T-Mobile and Sprint) to bid on in the auction. FCC officials settled on that 30 MHz figure during negotiations about rules for the auction and got plenty of grief about it from AT&T and Verizon, which also wanted to bid on those airwaves.

T-Mobile and smaller carriers have continued to lobby for a larger set-aside of airwaves, however, arguing that the current allocation wouldn’t really allow multiple carriers to win airwaves and build more competitive LTE networks. Once again, AT&T and Verizon are fighting this effort.

T-Mobile, in particular, needs low-band spectrum to boost its rural coverage. Low-band spectrum is also key to improving indoor coverage, which is important to all the carriers.

But it’s also ethereal and invisible and tough to get consumers riled up about. That said, Legere is entertaining and his video is worth a watch.

In response to Legere’s most recent arguments, Verizon’s lobbyists suggested that he watch his potty mouth in a new blog post published Thursday.


“Mr. Legere was in D.C., hat in hand, asking that more discounted spectrum on the taxpayer’s dime be included in the set-aside. We think this is a bad idea,” Verizon wrote in the post. “The FCC doesn’t need to give additional handouts to global companies with the financial wherewithal to compete.”

This article originally appeared on

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