Maintaining that Sprint has all the spectrum resources it needs to fulfill its wireless broadband network ambitions, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure told reporters Saturday that his company will not participate in upcoming incentive auctions of 600 MHz broadcast television spectrum to be sold to the wireless industry next March. The decision follows an ongoing pattern in which Sprint also passed on the opportunity to bid in the Advanced Wireless Service (AWS)- 3 auction earlier this year. Sprint – which has not participated in a major FCC auction in at least a decade – also sat out auctions of AWS-1 and 700 MHz band channels held in 2008 and the FCC’s auction of 700 MHz licenses held in 2011. Sprint’s decision could benefit T-Mobile US and other prospective incentive auction participants that lack access to desirable low-band spectrum assets, in view of the FCC’s recent decision to reserve 30 MHz of recovered 600 MHz channels for carriers other than Verizon and AT&T.
Currently, Sprint’s nationwide wireless spectrum holdings encompass 34 MHz in the 1.9 GHz band, 14 MHz in the 800 MHz band, and at least 150 MHz in the 2.5 GHz band. Although most of Sprint’s 1.9 GHz allotment is dedicated to legacy CDMA network operations, a portion of that spectrum is being used as the basis for Sprint’s fourth-generation LTE network infrastructure. Sprint is using its 2.5 GHz assets to provide LTE network services and is also using its 800 MHz spectrum to broaden its LTE coverage. As he emphasized that these assets are enough to enable Sprint “to deploy its network architecture of the future,” Claure announced that “Sprint’s focus and overarching imperative must be on improving its network and market position in the immediate term so we can remain a powerful force in fostering competition.” A company spokesman also noted that Sprint is “prioritizing its financial resources” – a strategy which he claimed is “more important for Sprint and its customers than investing in spectrum that won’t benefit our subscribers until 2020 at the earliest.”