CTIA, CCA disagree again over FCC's report on competition

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The FCC once again declined to say whether the U.S. wireless industry is competitive in its annual report addressing the matter. And once again, industry associations offered very different views.

The Commission’s Nineteenth Mobile Wireless Competition Report weighed data from the second half of 2015 in an effort to analyze competition among carriers “as well as examining competition across the entire mobile wireless ecosystem.” The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) for the fifth consecutive time stopped short of concluding the market “was effectively competitive,” saying the space is too complex to be summed up in such a simple way.

“Given the complexity of the various inter-related segments and services within the mobile wireless ecosystem, any single conclusion regarding the effectiveness of competition would be incomplete and possibly misleading in light of the complexities that we observe,” the WTB wrote. “This Report instead focuses on presenting the best data available on various aspects of competition throughout the mobile wireless ecosystem while also highlighting several key trends.”

The FCC estimated Verizon claimed 38.1 percent of overall industry service revenues in 2015, down slightly from 38.7 percent in 2014, while AT&T’s 32.4 percent share of revenues was essentially flat from the previous year. Sprint pocketed 14 percent of all service revenues last year, down from 14.9 percent the previous year, while T-Mobile’s share grew to 13.5 percent last year, up from 11.9 percent in 2014.

The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) praised the Commission’s unwillingness to deem the mobile market competitive and encouraged the agency to develop reforms that would spur competition.

“It’s true that the mobile market continues to evolve as consumers demand more wireless services. Nevertheless the Report affirms CCA’s analysis that the mobile marketplace cannot be considered effectively competitive as a result of concentrated market share, and a duopoly that continues to dominate service revenue and the number of connections and devices,” CCA CEO Steven Berry said in a prepared statement.

“I urge the Commission to prioritize access to critical spectrum resources,” Berry continued, “including unlicensed and millimeter wave spectrum; enact Universal Service Fund reform, and in particular, reevaluate Mobility Fund II to preserve and expand existing networks; fix the broken Business Data Services market; institute clear siting policies and access to content regimes; and facilitate competitive roaming arrangements, as the Chairman recently noted, to enable carriers to better serve consumers.”

CTIA said the document illustrates “the vibrant competition that has taken hold in the wireless market,” however. “As the report makes plain, consumers today enjoy unparalleled choice among wireless providers, service plans, and devices, all while the wireless industry continues to invest in networks at extraordinary levels to facilitate greater access to 4G LTE and foster the next generation of services,” said Scott Bergmann, CTIA’s vice president of regulatory affairs, in a statement.

For more:
- see the FCC’s latest Wireless Competition Report (PDF)

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