AT&T joined the chorus of critics following the recent blockbuster US spectrum auction, warning that frequencies should go to companies that are willing to deploy networks – “not speculators or stockpilers”.
The criticism was aimed at Dish Network, which participated in the process through two “designated entities” and was one of the big winners in the process.
“Post auction, Dish’s spectrum portfolio in the top 100 CMAs will, on average, be 81 MHz deep. Yet none of that spectrum is currently supporting commercial wireless services,” Joan Marsh, VP of federal regulatory for the operator, noted in a blog post.
The executive also questioned the practice of Dish and these designated entities acting in concert to increase the value of bids while their actual financial exposure was limited. “None of this suggests independent decision making by either of the DE bidders, which ultimately won over $13 billion worth of licences with a $3 billion ‘small business’ discount,” Marsh continued.
AT&T is calling for the bidding rules to be “revisited” to prevent such activity, for example by requiring joint bidders to participate in an auction as a single entity, or by preventing joint bidders from placing competing bids on the same licence.
“Designated entities can and have in the past played a significant role in meeting the statutorily-mandated requirement that the FCC ensure diversity in spectrum ownership, including by minority/women-owned and small businesses. But this auction shows how the legitimate purposes of the DE program can be distorted and manipulated,” she noted.
With the ending of a ‘quiet period’ related to the process, comments made by stakeholders have been forthright. John Legere, head of T-Mobile USA, last week branded the process a “disaster for American wireless consumers”.
His criticism was more wide-ranging, including AT&T and Verizon Wireless on the naughty list because “they can, and will, dig into their deep pockets to corner the market on available spectrum at nearly any cost”.
But like AT&T, he was also critical of “companies that don’t provide wireless service” being able to buy and not use frequencies.