In  a  second  development  that  relates  to  the  incentive  auction,  the  FCC  voted   unanimously  Wednesday  to  deny reconsideration of rules, promulgated last year in the mobile spectrum holdings proceeding, that  reserve a 30 MHz swath of spectrum in each market during the incentive auction for non-nationwide  carriers and for nationwide carriers that hold less than one-third of available low-band wireless  spectrum in a given license area.

The FCC’s decision represents a defeat for T-Mobile US, which had urged the FCC to boost the  spectrum reserve to at least 40 MHz to enhance the ability of smaller carriers to obtain the  low-band spectrum resources they need to compete effectively against market leaders Verizon  Wireless and AT&T. While T-Mobile further claimed that a 40 MHz reserve is warranted in view of the  fact that AT&T and Verizon together control more than 70% of desirable sub-1 GHz spectrum resources  in the U.S., AT&T and Verizon argued against any spectrum set aside on grounds that such a reserve  unfairly singles out competitors for special treatment and could also drive down auction revenues.

Denying reconsideration, the FCC determined that the previously-adopted reserve of 30 MHz is  sufficient to ensure access to high-value spectrum resources by smaller wireless carriers in the  incentive auction. The FCC also preserved rules that trigger the full spectrum reserve once TV  broadcasters surrender at least 84 MHz of spectrum for the forward auction. (T- Mobile had sought  rule changes that trigger the reserve once a minimum price is met or when the auction raises enough  money to reimburse TV broadcasters for their spectrum or for their relocation costs.) Despite the  FCC’s vote, T-Mobile CEO John Legere voiced optimism about the auction, tweeting that “the reserve  includes great quality spectrum and [it] looks like the FCC will be monitoring closely so a duopoly  can’t game the system.”  As such, Legere proclaimed that T- Mobile remained committed to “showing up, playing hard and being successful in the auction.”