Sprint will not participate in the US incentive auction of 600MHz, scheduled for early 2016, claiming it already has enough spectrum, plus the means to make its existing supply run more efficiently.

The operator is in the midst of a turnaround inspired by CEO Marcelo Claure. “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, consumer benefits and innovation in the wireless broadband world,” he stated.

Instead of splashing out on what is likely to be a billion-dollar contest, the operator will concentrate on improving coverage and capacity by densifying its network and increasing cell sites.

Sprint pointed to new technologies, including carrier aggregation, that will squeeze more usage out of its 2.5GHz holdings. It claims its strategy is already bearing fruit, based on RootMetrics’ surveys.

The operator also stated its support for reform of so-called special access, the last-mile fixed connections that are overwhelmingly controlled by AT&T and Verizon. Sprint and others are unhappy about the pricing, terms and conditions associated with these connections.

FCC chief Tom Wheeler has been looking to drum up interest in next year’s incentive auction for some time. So far, AT&T has shown the most enthusiasm, while T-Mobile US and Dish have also said they would take part in the contest.

Wheeler recently suggested that 600MHz would be key to future deployment of 5G.

The auction is unusual in that the regulator is buying back spectrum from TV broadcasters, and then selling it to the mobile industry. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) mounted a legal challenge to the auction but lost the case.