May 14, 2012
The RCA-The Competitive Carriers Association doesn’t necessarily want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to block Verizon Wireless from acquiring Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum from a group of cable companies, but it does want stipulations on the deal if it's to be approved.
RCA President and CEO Steven Berry outlined those stipulations, including spectrum divestitures, roaming agreements, backhaul policies and interoperability requirements, on a call Monday afternoon, held to introduce the Alliance for Broadband Competition. The Alliance is a group it hass formed, along with T-Mobile US Inc. , the Free Press and others that oppose the deal. (See T-Mobile Keys Group Targeting Verizon-MSO Deal .)
While some, like T-Mobile, called for an all-out blocking of the deal, the RCA was more lenient. Barry said the FCC was "asleep at the switch" when it allowed Verizon and fellow large wireless operator AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) to bifurcate the 700 MGHz spectrum, but it now has the opportunity to fix it. (See Sparks Start to Fly in VZ Wireless-MSO Deal, FCC Lengthens Review of Verizon's Spectrum Deal and Sprint, DirecTV Try to Stop Wireless Spectrum Review.)
"[Verizon] could almost create a walled garden LTE network within their own bands," Barry said on the call. "If we want to compete and promote a competitive industry with interoperability as a requirement, now is the time for the FCC to create it."
He said the industry needs roaming conditions, fair prices on backhaul and interoperability to give consumers real choice. Barry also called for more spectrum divestiture outside of the A and B block licenses Verizon has agreed to give up if the deal is approved. He was quick to point out this isn't the spectrum that other competitors would benefit from, but he didn't have a solid answer when asked what licenses he'd like to see divested instead. (See Verizon Will Sell Spectrum If It Seals AWS Deals.)
"I think it's the fiat of the FCC to determine spectrum divestiture policy," he said. "We hope they look closely at AWS."
Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead brought up the spectrum sell at last week's CTIA show, telling attendees he's confident the FCC would approve the deal. He also shot down claims that Verizon warehouses spectrum, noting that its decisions to sell A and B block licenses when no one was forcing it to do so indicates its not interested in warehousing it.
"We don’t have the most spectrum," he said on a carrier panel. "We have the most efficient use of spectrum. We have a very clear plan on how to optimize it for the benefit of consumers."
This is the main point T-Mobile took issue with, with Kathleen Ham, VP of federal regulatory affairs at the carrier, pointing out that when broken down by markets, Verizon comes in last in terms of spectral efficiency. The carrier's CTO, Neville Ray, also got a few digs in at CTIA, saying that T-Mobile has never been one to purchase spectrum and sit on it, unlike its competitors. He said interference issues with TV broadcasters plague the spectrum Verizon is offering to sell, rendering it unusable. (See T-Mobile CTO: Our 4G Stands Up to LTE Rivals and U.S. Cellular Eyes Verizon's 700MHz Spectrum.)
"I applaud Verizon for bringing spectrum to the market place they're not using, but I wish they'd do more with that," he said. "They have a stockpile of spectrum in 700 and AWS that they're not using today, and yet they want to acquire more spectrum."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile
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