Enlarge /. On Monday, February 6, 2017, a pigeon rests on a T-Mobile logo in front of a mobile phone business operated by Deutsche Telekom AG in Munich.
AT&T and Verizon are concerned about T-Mobile's huge spectrum holdings and have asked the Federal Communications Commission to restrict the operator's ability to obtain more spectrum licenses. Verizon began petitioning the FCC in August to reconsider accepting a new lease that would provide T-Mobile in 204 counties with an additional 10 MHz to 30 MHz spectrum in the 600 MHz band. AT&T followed up on Friday with a filing that supports many of the points made in Verizon's petition.
Once the smallest of four national carriers, T-Mobile complained that the low-band spectrum was insufficient to match the superior coverage of AT&T and Verizon. But T-Mobile left Sprint behind for the past few years and then bought the company. This makes T-Mobile one of three major nationwide carriers alongside AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile also strengthened its holdings of low-band spectrum by dominating a 600 MHz auction in 2017.
"The combination of Sprint and T-Mobile has resulted in an unprecedented concentration of the spectrum in the hands of one carrier," wrote AT&T in its report to the FCC on Friday. "In fact, the combined company often outperforms the Commission's frequency screen in cellular market areas that make up 82 percent of the US population, including all major markets."
T-Mobile's broad spectrum holdings call for "changes in the way the Commission is addressing additional spectrum acquisitions by this operator," AT&T said in another part of the filing. AT&T also posted a blog on the same topic that states, "By renting additional frequencies with Dish, T-Mobile will exceed the 250 MHz screen by up to 136 MHz."
FCC has to explain, says AT&T.
The FCC's Spectrum screen is not a fixed boundary, but rather a data point that the FCC uses in its public interest analyzes. T-Mobile's new leases in the 600 MHz band are with companies called Channel 51 License Company and LB License Co, which do not offer full spectrum service.
Even without the outstanding transactions, Verizon told the FCC: "T-Mobile already has national licenses for 311 MHz low and medium band spectrum. This is more than the low and medium band spectrum licensed for Verizon and AT&T together." Verizon said there was "a high likelihood" that competitive damage would be caused by T-Mobile's acquisition of more spectrum, and urged the FCC to “reject the agreements or require T-Mobile to take steps to mitigate that damage including the request to sell frequencies. " ""
Officially, AT&T said it "takes no position on whether T-Mobile's lease applications have been properly accepted by the FCC," but the company said the FCC "should provide an explanation as to why T-Mobile is allowing it." has to cross the frequency screen further. ""
"The Commission's failure to provide a written mandate for a transaction that allows for frequency aggregation beyond the screen to this extent is highly unusual … Furthermore, without a written mandate to explain its analysis, there is no evidence that the commission has tried this carefully to assess the potential for competitive harm, "wrote AT&T.
According to T-Mobile, Verizon is "insincere".
T-Mobile rejected Verizon's position in an August filing. "Verizon is not even attempting to harm itself with the 600 MHz frequency rentals – a requirement for petitioners who did not attend an earlier stage in the process," wrote T-Mobile. "As a company that has chosen not to participate in the Commission's 600 MHz auction and is currently touting its massive holdings of millimeter-wave spectra in support of 5G superiority, it is simply disingenuous for Verizon to complain now about that T-Mobile is expanding its portfolio by 600 MHz frequencies is somehow anti-competitive. "
T-Mobile also said its expanded spectrum will fuel competition for home Internet services, "as T-Mobile plans to use the leased spectrum to compete with Verizon to provide much-needed wireless broadband, particularly in rural areas To offer at home. "
Verizon had complained about T-Mobile's large inventory of low- and mid-band spectrum in major cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas, Houston and Atlanta. T-Mobile countered that Verizon has more spectrum overall in each of these cities, if you count the high band (millimeter wave) spectrum that Verizon uses on its 5G network. As we've described in numerous articles, millimeter wave signals don't travel far and can easily be blocked by walls and other obstacles, resulting in Verizon's small 5G footprint. Recent tests by OpenSignal have shown that T-Mobile has significantly higher 5G coverage than its competitors.