Obama spectrum fees could yield $4.8b

President Obama proposed new wireless spectrum licensing fees in his budget outline could bring in as much as $4.8 billion in revenue over the next decade.

In his budget outline for the fiscal 2010 year that begins in October, Obama proposed that wireless carriers pay new fees to license spectrum from the government. The fees would start out at $50 million in 2009, go up to $200 million in 2010 and jump over the next decade to $550 million per licensee per year.

These fees would come on top of license fees that the carriers have already paid to the government in previous spectrum auctions. In the most recent major auction - the 700 MHz block last year - the government raised a record $19.6 billion from wireless companies, most notably Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility.

The Tier 1 wireless carriers - AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA and Verizon - have not yet commented on the proposal, but are likely to oppose the measure. The wireless industry has voiced strong opposition to previous proposals to tack on additional spectrum licensing fees. Any changes to licensing fee structure would require legislation.

CTIA, the wireless industry trade association, said on Thursday that it had not yet staked out a position on the proposal. "We are currently reviewing the details of the proposal and look forward to participating in the next stages of this issue," CTIA said in a statement.

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