The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s new chairman Tom Wheeler (pictured) has hinted at rules for the forthcoming spectrum auction in the US by saying “a key goal” of the regulator’s policy is “ensuring that multiple carriers have access to airwaves needed to operate their networks.”
Wheeler then referenced a filing made by the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice in April when it urged the FCC to create auction rules that limit the amount of sub-1GHz spectrum that can be controlled by AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
According to The Wall Street Journal, this was Wheeler’s strongest indication to date that he might support auction rules for the country’s two largest operators.
“Spectrum is finite, and the FCC is charged with managing the airwaves that are used for commercial purposes. A key goal of our spectrum allocation efforts is ensuring that multiple carriers have access to airwaves needed to operate their networks.
“The importance of such competition was reinforced by a filing with the Commission from the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice last April,” said Wheeler.
Forthcoming spectrum sales in the US will have a major impact on the future shape of the market. Wheeler’s remarks were welcomed by both T-Mobile US and Sprint.
However, the chairman of the FCC also faces a dual pressure in addition to maintaining a competitive mobile market, and that is maximising financial returns from an auction expected to raise billions of dollars.
Meanwhile Wheeler used his speech to cover another area of key competitive concern: phone unlocking.
“I believe that once a consumer upholds his or her end of the deal to buy a phone, he or she should be able to switch that phone to another carrier’s network –it’s called competition,” he said.
Wheeler said he contacted the head of the CTIA last month to encourage the mobile industry to adopt unlocking practices.
“I have been pleased with the industry’s responsiveness thus far, but the message was clear: if mobile phone companies don’t act voluntarily – and quickly – to adopt a policy to unlock phones, I will work hard to ensure the FCC will act to require them to do so.”