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AT&T tells T-Mobile to stop complaining about spectrum auction after AT&T complained for years

When T-Mobile asked the FCC to set aside portions of spectrum for smaller or new entrants, AT&T responded by threatening the DOJ and FCC with lawsuits.

Published onMarch 6, 2015


AT&T wants T-Mobile to stop complaining about the results of the recent AWS-3 spectrum auction. While AT&T spent $18 billion for 251 licenses in the recent auction, T-Mobile paid $1.77 billion for 151 licenses and Verizon spent $10.4 billion for 181 licenses (Dish also spent $13.3 billion for 702 licenses).

As T-Mobile CEO John Legere noted recently, the results of this auction show that yet again AT&T and Verizon are using their financial power to take over any and all available spectrum.

Now, Joan Marsh, AT&T’s vice president of federal regulatory, is telling T-Mobile to stop complaining because the process showed how spectrum was being “efficiently deployed to bring substantial additional data capacity to U.S. wireless consumers.” Additionally, Marsh writes that the money received during the auction will now pay for the country’s interoperable public safety broadband network.

“T-Mobile is a big proponent of competition unless they are facing it in an auction–there they prefer protection…But we didn’t set the prices at auction–the auction competition did.” – Joan Marsh, AT&T’s vice president of federal regulatory, FierceWireless

In terms of this specific argument, both AT&T and T-Mobile have arguments that make sense. While I agree with T-Mobile that AT&T/Verizon are simply purchasing everything in sight with their financial war chest, I agree with AT&T that it is a bit rich coming from T-Mobile who reportedly put down almost $4 billion in bids.

It also doesn’t help AT&T that in this letter telling T-Mobile to stop complaining, AT&T also complained about the spectrum rules which allowed for Dish’s Network to secure such a substantial number of licenses through smaller companies (and therefore save billions).


But why is AT&T even commenting on another company who is complaining about the spectrum auction? Does AT&T realize that nobody complained more consistently and loudly as AT&T in the last year about the new spectrum rules?

As we have written about several times here at Android Authority, AT&T has quite the history complaining about the rules for spectrum auctions. In 2012, AT&T claimed that if they weren’t able to purchase T-Mobile, they would face an absolute spectrum catastrophe and would have to scale back network investment substantially. A year later, AT&T had a change of heart. After pulling off nearly forty spectrum deals in the previous 12 months, AT&T’s CFO John Stephens told investors that AT&T had enough spectrum to last the next five years.

It wasn’t even two years ago that the Department of Justice (DOJ) warned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that they should potentially cap the amount of spectrum that AT&T and Verizon could acquire moving forward to prevent the two companies from hoarding spectrum anti-competitively.


When T-Mobile asked the FCC to set aside portions of future 600 MHz broadcast spectrum for smaller or new entrants last year, AT&T responded by threatening the DOJ and FCC with lawsuits and by spending most of 2014 threatening to stay out of the upcoming spectrum auction. Thankfully, the FCC called AT&T’s bluff and AT&T crawled back to their corner until the auction started.

According to AT&T, the FCC’s new rules restricting AT&T and Verizon from completely hoarding important spectrum was supposed to “force AT&T to decide to spend its money elsewhere, which could undermine the FCC’s congressionally mandated goal of raising enough cash from the auction to … help pay for a new $7 billion public safety network.”

$40 billion later and AT&T yet again looks completely foolish with their predictions.


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