Even with threats from AT&T and Verizon, the FCC has gone forward and voted in favor of previously-proposed restrictions on the 2015 spectrum auction that will offer up valuable low-band airwaves to wireless carriers. The restrictions put in place will reserve portions of the spectrum going up for auction for carriers that don't already have large chunks of low-band spectrum, largely cutting out AT&T and Verizon from participating in many markets.

Though complaints from AT&T and Verizon that claimed the auction was unfairly placing restrictions on some participants made sense on the surface, the argument fell apart when you consider that those two carriers control as much as two-thirds of all low-band spectrum at this point. Opening up an auction that provides smaller carriers an opportunity to get more of this valuable spectrum makes sense, at least on that level. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had this to say:

"What this rule does is prevent those with current low-band spectrum from monopolizing the market in the auction by assuring that some spectrum will be available for those with insufficient amounts of spectrum to serve rural areas and penetrate buildings."

The spectrum auction is set to take place in mid-2015, when we'll find out how much money the government will be able to raise considering limited participation from the two biggest carriers in the country.

Beyond the auction, the FCC also voted in favor of expanding the "spectrum screen," which calculates how much usable spectrum is held by each carrier. With the new expansion, Sprint and Dish are both now considered to be holding even more usable spectrum due to their ownership of high-band airwaves.

Source: Yahoo Finance


Reader comments

FCC votes to limit AT&T, Verizon involvement in mid-2015 spectrum auction


Unfortunately we have an entire year+ of whining/lobbying/threats to look forward to. Hopefully, the FCC will hold strong, and Congress doesn't stick their nose into something that isn't their business to force the issue.

I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Verizon sued to have it revoked as well.

Queue the lawsuits in 3..2..

Can't wait to see all the spectrum that Verizon and ATT have and are sitting on and NOT using just for control or an asset.

Carriers should not be allowed to sell their spectrum to other companies if they are not using it. It should go straight back to the FCC for them to auction off again. Either Use it or Lose it.
The Airwaves of this country are owned by the citizens and leased by the FCC on our behalf.

I am not going to whine - I feel like this is good for all customers. I am on AT&T Go Phone and am very happy with my service.

I feel like T-Mobile will do something very positive with the extra spectrum. I would love to see them get some low frequency spectrum to help with building penetration. I think that along with converting EDGE to LTE over the next 1-2 years and T-Mobile will be actually able to compete with Verizon and AT&T by 2017.

If you have Sprint LTE in your area it can be a great deal - who doesn't want unlimited high speed data? I would like to see them improve their network as well - especially here in Richmond. It is too bad they focused on WiMax - it really ended up hurting them in the long run.

Most of the other small carriers in the USA use Sprint's and T-Mobile's network - improvement for Sprint and T-Mobile means improvement for them.

I completely agree. I'm on AT&T right now, and I love my service; but I feel like they're only competitive because of what T-Mobile has been doing.

If T-Mobile gets its hands on some Prime low-band real estate, I'll switch to them. The only reason I'm on Aio rather than T-Mobile right now is that I live in an old house with thick, brick walls, and my entire downstairs is a T-Mo black hole, but AT&T bands reach me just fine. Some 700MHz action would change that.

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T-mo already bought verizon's 700mhz spectrum but they havent put up hardware yet... there is an upcoming 600mhz auction that has already been cut into pieces & requires 6 years min before selling.

+1 to everything you said but I wanted to say one thing. Sprint had to do the wimax stuff. Lte wasn't ready and they had a choice. Develop 4G or lose the spectrum altogether.

I am sure they would have preferred Lte as well

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Still put them behind though because at the time they really didn't have the money to burn.

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Queue the whining? Did the whining ever stop from the last thing? I thought it was one perpetual whine fest around here.

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There's another opening T-Mobile. Get out there and increase our coverage.
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Add more government to the mix? Have another auction when the lease runs out? There are too many variables to that and too much paperwork

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Honestly that's not a bad idea because if the company doesn't use the spectrum government won't renew the lease.

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I don't think it's a bad idea either, brother. It prevents a company from perpetually owning valuable spectrum that they may not be using to its full potential. Of course, it does have some downsides. Working in government, you'd know more than the rest of us, though.

If the leases are substantial (10+ uears) and have requirements (must use 75% of capacity) then I could see it.

Does bring up another problem though. Say Sprint has a low band and an extremely high band in an are. The lease is up on the low band. Verizon puts in a better bid. Now sprint is effectively crippled in that area. Harrisburg, maybe not that big a deal. NYC that is devastating

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So the companies with more spectrum than they can effectively use get more and the two companies with 2/3 of the customers and fully used spectrum don't get any chance to buy more? All you're going to have is the majority of the population complaining when speeds won't get any faster in the future due to lack of spectrum.

Nope, many of them will switch to Tmobile, Sprint, etc. freeing up space for you guys stuck on Verizon or Att. That will force Verizon and Att to offer more competitive prices. Everybody wins. Verizon and Att have plenty of money to spend on improving their infrastructure if they need to. Building penetration is the only complaint I have with Tmobile. I'm talking skyscrapers, not your average building. 600MHz will be excellent.

I pay $75 a month for 3 GB of data with unlimited talk and text with AT&T. I think that's a fair price especially since I get great service wherever I go

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That's definitely not bad. I have the $30 Tmobile plan on my N5. 100 min/unlimited text and data (5GB LTE). Only 10 cents per min if I need more. Also, can use GrooveIP/GV to make calls over data but it only works well in LTE/HSPA+ areas. Fortunately the LTE coverage is excellent up and down the east coast where I mostly travel for business. I admit I bring my company phone on Verizon if I head somewhere I haven't been to just in case, but I've been pleasantly surprised how well Tmobile's signal is in pretty rural areas right next to a device on Verizon. People should love Tmobile on any network, because they're the ones driving everybody's prices down.

Oh and my lady is on Solavei (Tmo towers)...unlimited everything w/ 5 GB LTE for $50. I'm just fine with using data for voice, short calls, and texting or I'd go that route. Can only hope more people can enjoy their pricing in the near future.

What a bunch of crap. Tmo and Sprint do not have the resources to use the spectrum so they shouldn't buy it. They both have the capital to buy the spectrum even when bidding against Verizon and AT&T. They just won't have the money left over to build their networks to use the signal. They need to look at the opportunity cost. I'm so sick of government hand outs.

The market will decide who they favor and tmo's aggressive pricing has been bringing them in many customers. They will eventually be worth more than AT&T and Verizon but it won't happen over night and this spectrum won't help.

And Sprint should just die.

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So you are OK with paying $500 per line and no choice to go anywhere else right? You are effectively advocating a monopoly

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They don't charge $500 a line and there is no monopoly. People will not spend that on cell phone service and will switch to tmo is what I'm saying. The market will level it out. Tmo scared all the carriers with their new pricing scheme with phones and how they subsidize the price and now they all have that option.

It's something we have already seen in the market. Look at how tmo keeps adding new customers quarter after quarter. I love tmo but they don't have service in my area. If they invested more in their infrastructure they could though and that's what they are already doing. Once they have maximized efficientcy and capacity then they should buy more spectrum.

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You can only switch to T-Mobile if you live in a city. Quit being short sited. There are millions of people that live in communities outside of "the big city" that need SOME form of options.

AT&T/Verizon wouldn't be buying the spectrum to put it to use primarily. They'd be buying it to block competition and protect their profits, that they are most likely storing in off shore accounts to protect them from being taxed. In the end consumers lose. Competition is needed both in and out of the big cities.

I'm not being short sighted. I live in on one of the cities that tmo doesn't cover. Cincinnati. Verizon doesn't charge anymore here than they do in other parts of the country. And while tmo doesn't give me the 4g I need I still know plenty of people with tmo because of the price. The higher Verizon raises the price, the more people drop to go to tmo. The more people on tmo the more money they can spend on spectrum. Verizon starts running out of customers, Verizon sells spectrum to stay afloat.

The market will work it out. Adding government intervention is like an invasive species. It upsets the natural balance.

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And you have very, very little faith in corporations. I would educate yourself more on their positive impacts on the economy and society.

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They will charge whatever they want. They are mostly unregulated when it comes to charges and if, let's say Verizon, is the only game in town, they can charge what they want. If sprint and tmo do not get spectrum they will die off

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I will personally buy this spectrum and sell it to Verizon for $6 and a Moto 360 when they come out.

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Wait a minute...

You have to find out what kind of beer. You could get stuck with a case of schlitz

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In a way doesn't this prevent the FCC from being able to get as much money? By limiting what Verizon and AT&T can get the FCC ends up limiting the amount of money they can get since Sprint and T-Mobile don't have as much to spend. I understand fairness but I guess it isn't about the amount the FCC can get.

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They may be worth billions but at the same time without Verizon and AT&T driving up the value of the spectrum then Softbank wouldn't have to use those billions that they are worth.

"When demand exceeds supply, prices increase," T-Mobile wrote. "Preserving--and indeed expanding--the occasions when Verizon and AT&T must bid against one another for broadband spectrum, rather than contorting the rules to allow the two dominant carriers to divide the available resources evenly between them, may represent the single most meaningful thing the Commission can do to improve auction revenue, increase payments to broadcasters, and expand the amount of spectrum available for new wireless broadband services."

Obviously the FCC agrees.

If you want to think of it as a short term effect. Then yes, the money generated will be lower. However if you want to think of the long term effects 10, 20, 50 years down the road of what this forced competitive environment will produce, American consumers win big.

If this winds up lowering the costs of mobile bills by $5/month due to competition * 100 million people, that = $6 billion a year. That is a huge effect that will benefit just about every person and company in the country, except AT&T and Verizon.

While that is true, the fact it the FCC is doing what is better for people and allowing smaller players to have a chance against the Doulopoly we have now.
Simple fact is in the US we pay more and get less for our cell phone planes compared to the rest of the world and a big reason for that is it is controlled by 2 companies.
At 1 point in time their were what 7-8 cell phone companies. Now we have 2 big ones, 2 small ones and then others.
Prices have gone up and service has gone down. We need smaller players to end the abuse of AT&T and Verizon.

If these so-called fast lanes are allowed, big, established websites will be able to do what they want while those smaller than they are are relegated to the slow lane because they can't afford to pay for the speed they need. This is not how the Net

Lol, they allow fast lanes but don't allow buying of spectrum. I don't think the FCC knows what it is doing.

Yep. Clueless least to say.

"Net neutrality is imaginary baloney, there is no need for an open internet." - one of the FCC commissioners said.

VZW Moto X

Justin while I do agree gov should stay out on most cases. I think the fcc this time is actually helping. People are already paying Verizon way more than they want. Because they have no choice. Cell/data service is now not just a luxury. So people will pay 300 a line if forced to. In order to compete in the world.

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If this holds, it is a big win for consumers. Lawsuits are imminent on this, and net neutrality, no matter who wins. AT@T and Verizon are the most profit hungry companies on the market, well, besides Comcast.