Writing last week to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, T-Mobile US Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray called on the FCC to boost the amount of 600 MHz reserve spectrum in the agency’s upcoming incentive auction to “at least 40 MHz.”  T-Mobile claimed that this would “give competitive carriers an opportunity to secure the low-band spectrum necessary to provide more extensive and more reliable service . . . and deploy new competitive services in less populated areas of the country.”   

Ray delivered his letter as a follow-up to T-Mobile’s pending petition for reconsideration of the FCC’s decision last year to adopt a 30 MHz incentive auction reserve, which precludes bids by wireless carriers that already control a certain percentage of spectrum in the sub-1 GHz bands (i.e., AT&T and Verizon).  As he reminded Wheeler that AT&T and Verizon each hold “roughly 50 MHz of low-band spectrum,” which represents “more than 73% of all low-band spectrum available for commercial use across the entire industry today,” Ray reiterated his company’s previous stance that the 30 MHz reserve is “simply insufficient to promote the competitive environment that industry so desperately needs.”  Declaring, “all spectrum is not created equal,” Ray observed that the low-band 600 MHz channels to be surrendered voluntarily by broadcasters for sale to wireless carriers in the incentive auction are “particularly valuable because [they] penetrate buildings more readily and [cover] a much wider geographic area with fewer transmitters than higher-band spectrum.”  Ray further maintained that the nationwide networks deployed by Verizon and AT&T—respectively, the number one and two wireless carriers in the United States—“would not be economically feasible without low-band spectrum’s exceptional propagation characteristics.”   

As he emphasized that wireless broadband providers “need largely unimpaired, low-band spectrum to compete effectively,” Ray told Wheeler that next year’s incentive auction “offers one last opportunity for competitive carriers to acquire low-band spectrum in sufficient quantities for would-be competitors to challenge the dominant incumbents.”  To achieve the desired level of competition, Ray thus asserted that an auction reserve of 40 MHz will “ensure multiple carriers have an opportunity . . . to bring more meaningful consumer choice to rural and underserved areas throughout the United States.”