CCA, WISPA want to make sure smaller carriers don’t get shut out of C-band auction

rural area
The groups represent service providers that serve some of the most rural parts of the country. (Pixabay)

The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) and three other groups are pressing for a limit on the amount of spectrum any one bidder is eligible to get in the upcoming C-band auction.

They are not alone in their stance. T-Mobile also is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is due to take up the C-band issue at its meeting later this month, to impose a one-third limit on how much C-band spectrum can be acquired by a single entity. That’s in contrast to Verizon, which argues that a one-third limit on C-band spectrum is unnecessarily restrictive.

CCA and WISPA were joined by NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, INCOMPAS and Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) in their February 18 letter to the FCC (PDF).

“An auction in which one or two of the largest incumbent mobile carriers walk away with all 280 megahertz of C-band spectrum will not promote a competitive marketplace or benefit consumers,” they told the FCC. “A requirement that no single entity can acquire more than one-third of the spectrum in a geographic area would give bidders of all sizes, including smaller providers, a reasonable opportunity to acquire scarce mid-band spectrum, thereby encouraging greater participation in the auction by bidders of all sizes and promoting a more competitive wireless landscape."

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The groups say that applying an aggregation limit would result in a more robust auction by enabling a diverse group of applicants to participate. The FCC has imposed aggregation limits in past auctions and “considering the importance of the C-band to the long-term prospects for 5G deployment outside of dense urban areas, the Commission should again adopt them here,” they said.

Their letter acknowledges that the commission’s draft order on the C-band asserts that an aggregation limit would “unnecessarily restrict providers’ ability to participate in the auction and acquire spectrum in this band,” but they argue that the lack of an aggregation limit is far more likely to restrict participation in the auction.

“If operators do not believe they have a genuine possibility of acquiring the spectrum that they need, they will be discouraged from participating at all,” they wrote. “And it is difficult to see how the competitive benefits of allowing a single operator to acquire more than 100 megahertz of scarce C-band spectrum outweigh the competitive benefits of allowing multiple operators to acquire the spectrum resources that they need to serve customers, including consumers in some of the most rural and high cost areas of the country.”