AT&T urges 'strong, centralized FCC leadership' during post-auction transition

AT&T (NYSE: VZ) once again urged the FCC to lay the foundation for a smooth spectrum reorganization process following the upcoming incentive auction, saying that "strong, centralized FCC leadership on the transition will be essential."

The FCC later this month will begin a "reverse" auction that will eventually see it buy back unwanted airwaves from TV broadcasters. That spectrum will then be auctioned off later this year to companies looking to use it to launch mobile communications services.

But the spectrum will have to be "repacked" to make the licenses available to wireless network operators while TV broadcasters move to other channels. The FCC has proposed a 39-month timeline for repacking, although that schedule has come under fire by TV broadcasters who say it doesn't provide enough time.

AT&T didn't offer an opinion on the proposed timeline in its latest filing, but it did cite the 800 MHz rebanding effort, which began in June of 2005 was expected to take 36 months but continues today.

"We also believe that there are important lessons that can be learned from other FCC projects of similar size, scope, and complexity that underscore the importance of up-front logistical and programmatic planning, careful execution, and robust program management," wrote Joan Marsh, AT&T's vice president of federal regulatory, in the filing. "While the 800 MHz rebanding in many ways was more complex than this effort, there are also many similarities. Notably, the 800 MHz rebanding effort began with the belief that the band could be fully re-organized within 36 months. We now know, in hind sight, that the effort will in fact take more than a decade to complete."

AT&T went on to urge the FCC to make sure it has the resources in place to produce a detailed transition plan for comment and feedback within a few months of the auction's conclusion. Factors that should be addressed in such a plan include the efficient use of available tower crews and other specialized personnel; minimizing the length of the transition from start to finish; and "delivering public interest benefits to the greatest number of people in the shortest people of time."

"A carefully developed and regionally prioritized plan, coupled with strong project management, is essential to managing key dependencies and to controlling constraints and challenges," the operator wrote. "AT&T urges the FCC to utilize all means available to it to ensure that it has the necessary expertise and resources available to establish and execute on an effective and expeditious repacking plan as soon as the auction concludes."

AT&T is expected to be the dominant bidder at the FCC's upcoming incentive auction, and could spend as much as $10 billion on licenses. While the FCC's 39-month repacking plan has drawn criticism from some who believe it doesn't provide enough time for repacking, AT&T said last month in an FCC filing that it wants a "realistic" schedule regardless of how long it takes.

For more:
- see this FCC filing

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