Verizon is appealing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prevent T-Mobile from getting its hands on leases of more 600 MHz spectrum.
In June, FierceWireless reported that T-Mobile had applied for instant spectrum leases with Channel 51 License Company and LB License Co. to lease 600 MHz spectrum in a number of major markets, including Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, New Orleans, St. Louis, San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta and Seattle, among others. Channel 51 and LB License Co. had been lending 600 MHz spectrum to T-Mobile to help the carrier boost its network during the Covid-19 pandemic. And T-Mobile wants to now convert those loans into leases.
But Verizon is opposing T-Mobile’s access to the spectrum.
On August 7, Verizon filed a petition with the FCC, arguing that the additional 600 MHz of spectrum, if granted to T-Mobile, would cause Verizon “competitive harms.” And it’s hanging its legal hat on the fact that the additional spectrum would cause T-Mobile to exceed a “spectrum screen” set by the FCC.
The FCC uses a spectrum screen to review secondary market transactions. The screen acts as a benchmark to determine reasonable levels of spectrum holdings, and is used to assess mergers, spectrum swaps, or other similar transactions, according to a blog by CommScope.
In its August petition, Verizon said, “T-Mobile’s own statements underscore the competitive harms from T-Mobile’s concentration of spectrum. T-Mobile’s President of Technology Neville Ray recently boasted that, even before these arrangements take effect, T-Mobile’s low- and mid-band spectrum holdings give it such a ‘material advantage’ in the marketplace that its ‘competition doesn’t have a path to match for some time.’”
Verizon says the FCC should not allow T-Mobile access to additional 600 MHz spectrum to “dramatically expand” its lead “in many of the country’s largest markets without subjecting these arrangements to the same rigorous competitive analysis the Commission normally applies to transactions that exceed the spectrum screen.”
Verizon included the below chart in its petition and said that on a population-weighted basis — and before T-Mobile obtains spectrum from the 600 MHz in question or any spectrum leased from Dish — T-Mobile already holds licenses for 311 MHz of low- and mid-band spectrum nationwide, which is more than the low- and mid-band spectrum licensed to Verizon and AT&T combined
“As shown above, it is T-Mobile that has the most substantial total low- and mid-band spectrum holdings of any provider at the national level,” stated Verizon.
And Verizon goes on to highlight what it calls “T-Mobile’s massive lead in low- and mid-band spectrum in the most populated Partial Economic Areas in which T-Mobile is obtaining even more spectrum through these arrangements.”
Verizon is requesting that the FCC reject T-Mobile’s petitions for 600 MHz spectrum from Channel 51 and LB License Co., or require some compensating spectrum divestitures from T-Mobile.
T-Mobile counters that its access to additional 600 MHz spectrum plainly “provides benefits for consumers” and “those benefits are magnified now as the country faces the Covid-19 pandemic.”