In oppositions filed with the FCC on the eve of the Independence Day holiday, AT&T and East Kentucky Network LLC (EKN) challenged recent claims by T-Mobile US that EKN’s proposed sale of several C-block 700 MHz licenses to AT&T would further solidify AT&T’s control of wireless low-band spectrum resources to the detriment of competitors that serve affected markets in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. 

Criticizing the deal as contrary to the public interest, the petition to deny filed two weeks ago by T-Mobile contends that the transaction, if approved, would reduce the number of entities that hold low-band spectrum in the affected markets from six to five.  T-Mobile also argues that the license transfer would give AT&T—which, together with Verizon Wireless, already holds “more than 36 MHz of low-band spectrum” in two of the three cellular market areas (CMAs) involved in the transaction—control of “more than one-third of the spectrum below 1 GHz” in the CMAs in question. 

AT&T emphasized, however, that EKN “has not deployed” the 700 MHz spectrum involved in the proposed license transfer “and has no plans to do so.”  EKN also told the FCC that T-Mobile was incorrect in its assertion that the proposed sale would remove a competitor because EKN “did not construct 700 MHz facilities” in the affected CMAs “and. . . does not provide service in those markets.”  Citing its plan to use EKN’s licenses “to deploy a cutting-edge LTE network” and to “pair this spectrum with adjacent spectrum to increase its current 5X5 MHz deployments to a more spectrally efficient 10X10 MHz LTE deployment,” AT&T declared that the FCC “has repeatedly and consistently held that transactions with these characteristics strengthen competition and provide strong public interest benefits.”  Adding that T-Mobile “currently holds a substantial amount of spectrum in the markets at issue that it has never deployed, and, indeed . . . offers very little facilities-based service” in the affected CMAs, AT&T thus dismissed T-Mobile’s claims as “irrelevant.”