Small Carriers Optimistic for 600MHz Auction Sans Sprint

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- CCA Annual Convention -- T-Mobile might not have been surprised by Sprint's decision to sit out the upcoming 600MHz spectrum auction, but it certainly welcomes it, as do the small carriers and Dish Network, which is likely to participate.

With Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) out, the smaller carriers have one less "deep pocket" to compete against, Eric Woody, chief technology and operations officer of Union Wireless, noted on a panel discussion here in Florida. Some of the rural carriers will even be able to get 10x10 instead of 5x5 licenses, Competitive Carriers Association President Steve Berry also suggested to Light Reading. (See Sprint Says It Will Sit Out Incentive Auction .)

That goes for Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) too. Alison Minea, director and senior counsel of regulatory affairs at the satellite company, said that Dish is considering participating in the incentive auction, even though the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) overturned the $3.3 billion in discounts it had previously received in the AWS-3 spectrum auction by exploiting a loophole in the system. (See FCC Auction Proposal Dings Dish, T-Mobile and Hey Big Spenders! AT&T, Dish & VZ Splash Cash on Spectrum.)

For its part, T-Mobile US Inc. is happy Sprint is out, but not surprised. Kathleen Ham, the carrier's senior vice president of government affairs, pointed out on the panel that Sprint hasn't bid in an auction since 2006. She didn't expect it to participate in 2016 either. "You'll see T-Mobile there and potentially some new entrants, she said. "It will be healthy." (See T-Mobile Takes Spectrum Fight to the People.)

For more on wireless spectrum in the US, visit the dedicated mobile content section here on Light Reading.

The CCA shares Ham's point of view and expects its smaller rural members to step up to the plate at the auction. Tim Donovan, the CCA's vice president of legislative affairs, said he anticipates many more rural operators to participate, even though -- as the moderator, CNET's Maggie Reardon said -- many are refarming their spectrum instead.

"Spectrum is like land; they're not making any more." Union's Woody added on the panel. "We have to use what we have, and we want more of it."

The FCC, which was also represented on the panel by Jessica Almond, acting legal advisor of engineering and technology, wireless and incentive auction, added her two cents that the Commission will be patrolling to make sure bigger carriers don't unfairly exploit the system this time around.

"We've done a number of good things to ensure its competitive for smaller carriers or anyone to get in when it's available," she said of the auction. "We will be vigilant. To the extent anyone thinks the bigger carriers can game the system, we'll be watching."

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

Sarah Thomas 10/8/2015 | 10:26:30 AM
The dish on Dish I updated the story to clarify that Dish hasn't 100% confirmed it will participate in the auction. Allison did say "Dish has always said it would participate," but then she went on to say they are still analyzing it and considering what they will do. They had said in the past that they will definitely participate, but then reconsidered when they got in trouble with the DE rules. So, while she did say that, it's probably premature to commit them to particpating.
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