Expectations high for upcoming AWS-3 spectrum auction

LAS VEGAS--Anticipation is growing for the FCC's upcoming AWS-3 spectrum auction, which will begin Nov. 13. During a panel discussion here at the Competitive Carriers' Association conference, several operators said that they expected the auction to get high participation from a lot of different players.

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) is expected to participate in the auction, along with Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), AT&T (NYSE: T), Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) and many other smaller carriers. Sprint is unlikely to participate as it currently has no AWS spectrum in its portfolio.

Kathleen Ham, vice president of regulatory affairs with T-Mobile said that she thinks lots of carriers are interested in the AWS-3 band because it's globalized spectrum and will have compatible handsets.

That sentiment was echoed by Ben Moncrief, vice president of government relations with C Spire. "AWS-3 opens up opportunity for smaller carriers to have a chance at spectrum. I think it will be high demand."  However, Moncrief noted that C Spire is more focused on low-band spectrum because of its rural footprint and is still evaluating whether or not to participate in the AWS-3 auction.

Of course, the deadline for participating in the AWS-3 auction is on Friday, so operators that want to participate must make a decision in the next couple of days. 

Beyond AWS-3, the 600 MHz incentive auction is also on wireless operators' radar. That auction is expected to occur in mid-2015.  Although the two spectrum auctions are both occurring in a relative short time frame, the panel participants said operators are prepared.  Sprint's Larry Krevor, vice president of regulatory affairs, said that in the past when auctions were spaced closely together, operators did have difficulty raising funding to support the auction. However, he didn't expect that to happen this time. "We haven't had a significant spectrum auction in some time," he noted.

C Spire's Moncrief agreed. "We have had time to prepare for it. Folks that want to do both, will do both."

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