T-Mobile's Humm: Verizon's 700 MHz spectrum sale isn't enough

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T-Mobile USA CEO Philipp Humm met with a senior FCC official late last week at the carrier's headquarters to press the FCC to block Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) proposed acquisition of AWS spectrum from various cable companies. Humm, along with other T-Mobile executives, also said that Verizon's proposed sale of some of its 700 MHz spectrum does not mitigate the potential negative effects of its deals with the cable companies, according to an FCC filing.

T-Mobile USA CEO Philipp Humm

Humm

Although meetings between carrier CEOs and FCC officials are somewhat common--Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead met with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on the matter last month, for example--the inclusion of Humm suggests the importance that T-Mobile is placing on trying to get the deals blocked. Analysts said last week that Verizon's announcement to sell all of its 700 MHz Lower A and B Block spectrum--contingent on regulatory approval of its purchase of AWS spectrum from the MSOs--indicate the transaction likely will be approved. 

On April 19, Humm and his lieutenants, including CTO Neville Ray, met at T-Mobile's offices in Bellevue, Wash., with Rick Kaplan, the chief of the FCC's wireless bureau, according to the filing. "Representatives discussed the fact that, unlike T-Mobile and other wireless carriers, Verizon Wireless has not used its existing AWS spectrum in any way in the six years it has held the licenses, and that the instant transactions would add even more AWS spectrum to Verizon Wireless' unused spectrum inventory," the filing states. "They noted that given this dismal track record on utilization of its current AWS spectrum, it would make no sense, and would be inconsistent with the commission's charge to ensure that spectrum transfers serve the public interest, to allow Verizon to acquire additional AWS licenses, especially at this time of an industry-wide spectrum crunch."

T-Mobile, which plans to use its own AWS spectrum to deploy LTE next year, urged the FCC to consider the fact that handing more AWS spectrum to Verizon would harm competitors looking to deploy LTE. They also noted that Verizon's proposed 700 MHz sale presents problems for the industry. T-Mobile representatives "noted some of the problems with that spectrum in the near term, including a lack of a national footprint in what Verizon is offering, interference from adjacent high-powered broadcasters, and lack of equipment and interoperability with the rest of the 700 MHz band."

FCC spokesman Neil grace said the agency did not have any comment on Verizon's proposed 700 MHz sale.

Meanwhile, on Friday the Communications Workers of America told the FCC it should halt its 180-day nonbinding "shot clock" review of Verizon's plan to buy spectrum from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications for $3.9 billion. CWA said that the companies have failed to provide data the FCC has requested "in a manner that allows for meaningful review."

Verizon's deals with the cable companies also include commercial agreements to resell each other's services. The companies have repeatedly argued that such deals fall outside the FCC's purview. "The companies are obstructing review of the deal by delaying the delivery of documents, providing documents with large segments redacted, delivering materials in unreadable file formats, hiding data behind various proprietary file formats, and burying relevant information in literally hundreds of thousands of documents," the CWA said.

For more:
- see this FCC filing
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this release

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