Verizon recently whisked Straight Path – and all the 5G spectrum that went with it – out of AT&T’s hands with a cool $3.1 billion bid. Now, the Competitive Carriers Association is renewing its calls for the Federal Communications Commission to hand AT&T another loss by blocking its FiberTower acquisition and auctioning off the millimeter wave spectrum instead.
AT&T quietly announced its plan to buy FiberTower back in February, noting the latter’s spectrum would help it “lay the groundwork for 5G and beyond.” Neither the financial terms nor a timeline for the transaction were disclosed.
But in an ex parte filed with the Commission Wednesday, CCA once again urged the FCC to reject AT&T’s bid to take over FiberTower’s 650 millimeter wave licenses. Instead, CCA indicated the FCC should take back the licenses and auction the 24 GHz and 39 GHz spectrum. CCA CEO Steven Berry said such a move would “reinvigorate the competitive spirit among carriers, promote efficiency, secure additional funds for deficit reduction, and benefit consumers.”
“Allowing one of the nation’s dominant carriers to obtain 650 terminated licenses at potentially less than market value would harm competition, the economy, and most importantly, consumers,” Berry commented. “The FCC should not afford AT&T any special treatment to obtain these licenses – which were terminated by law for failure to meet the FCC’s construction requirements. It would be a disservice to the FCC’s rules, competition, and consumers to allow one dominant carrier to reap the substantial benefits of FiberTower’s terminated licenses, and I strongly urge the FCC to reauction the licenses so that every carrier, including AT&T, has an opportunity to acquire additional spectrum resources.”
According to a list of market and city coverage provided on its website, FiberTower’s spectrum assets span major cities like New York City, Los Angeles, Washington DC and nearby suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, San Francisco, Denver, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Buffalo, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Charlotte and Ashville, N.C., Hartford, Conn., Wilmington, Del., Trenton and northern New Jersey, Providence, R.I., Charleston, S.C., Nashville, Tenn., Austin, Dallas-Ft. Worth, and San Antonio, Texas, Salt Lake City, and all of Puerto Rico. Additionally, the licenses cover the home turf of AT&T rivals Sprint and T-Mobile in Kansas City and Seattle.
AT&T’s play for FiberTower – and CCA’s opposition to it – comes as major stateside carriers race to snatch up available “5G spectrum” in the wake of an FCC order last year that opened up 3.85 GHz of licensed spectrum from 27.5-28.35 GHz and 37-40 GHz. Verizon has aggressively moved to lock in spectrum in these bands via deals with XO Communications and Straight Path. T-Mobile is also sitting on 28 GHz airwaves it plans to use for 5G deployments.
Filed Under: Telecommunications (Spectrum), Wireless