Despite urgings from companies, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided not to increase the spectrum reserve for the upcoming spectrum auction happening in 2016. This means that those parties (especially T-Mobile) will just have to do with the current amount of reserved airwaves when they participate in next year's wireless auction, which could be the last the FCC is expected to hold for a long time.
Wireless spectra are the airwaves used to transmit voice calls, Internet signals, and video streams to mobile devices. In next year's upcoming auction, TV broadcasters are allowed to sell spectrum to wireless operators. These airwaves are crucial because they run on a lower frequency, making them go through walls and structures easier and cover a wider area.
There has been much debate over how much wireless spectrum the federal government should reserve for smaller operators in the next auction scheduled in early 2016. A year ago, the FCC had agreed to set aside some spectrum so that carriers (whether small, medium, or big) could all have a fair shot at grabbing some airwaves. The main concern for smaller carriers such as T-Mobile and Sprint is that there is not enough spectrum for them to bid on, which means that they will have to bid against industry leaders Verizon Wireless and AT&T, two companies that could easily outbid just about everyone (also, the two already hold over 70 percent of the spectrum). As pointed out by T-Mobile, having extra spectrum could help achieve a more true and healthier competition in the wireless industry.
John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, has been very vocal quite recently in encouraging other companies and even mobile users to speak out and pressure the FCC to ready more spectrum for next year's auction.
Even the Department of Justice and five US senators have chimed in, sending letters to the agency urging it to reconsider the situation. In its letter, the Department of Justice cautioned the FCC that Verizon and AT&T could end up grabbing all the spectrum. This was more or less echoed by the five senators, who warned the FCC that the two industry leaders are fast becoming a duo-poly that is unfairly lording over smaller wireless carriers.
For its part, the FCC has not exactly ignored these concerns. As a matter of fact, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, has acknowledged them through a blog post. But ultimately, the agency has the final say. Next month, the FCC will be voting on the final rules that will govern the upcoming wireless auction next year.
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