FCC denies motion to stop clock on T-Mobile/Sprint deal

FCC headquarters
The commission said petitioners failed to establish any basis for granting the extension they sought. (Ser Amantio di Nicolao/CC BY-3.0)

The FCC has denied a request to stop the clock or extend the pleading cycle associated with the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint combination.

A group of entities filed a request (PDF) to stop the review clock in the T-Mobile/Sprint proceeding in order for the operators to supplement their public interest statement (PDF) with more specific information regarding their concentration of spectrum on a market-by-market basis.

The entities include the Communications Workers of America, Rural Wireless Association, NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association, Public Knowledge, Consumers Union, The Greenlining Institute, Common Cause, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Writers Guild of America West, Free Press and Benton Foundation, collectively referred to as “movants” in the filing.

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As reported earlier by Phone Scoop, the commission today denied (PDF) their request, saying the movants failed to establish any basis for granting the extension.

“While we understand that this may be a busy period for the Movants in light of pending proceedings before the Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, that fact does not support grant of an extension of time,” the agency said, adding that the timing of Jewish holidays in September, after the current scheduled petition to deny due date, doesn’t warrant granting an extension of time.

In denying the request, the FCC is sticking with the established (PDF) pleading cycle where Petitions to Deny are due Aug. 27; comments in opposition are due Sept. 17, and replies to those are due Oct. 9.

RELATED: T-Mobile, Sprint say ‘no way’ to motion to pause their merger proceeding

The movants had argued that the commission should establish a new pleading cycle and require the merging parties to submit complete spectrum charts, listing for each county the New T-Mobile’s total spectrum holdings. If the FCC didn’t stop the clock on the proceeding, they wanted a four-week extension of time for the initial comments to be due Sept. 17, in part because there are so many other proceedings going on at the same time and major Jewish holidays occurring in early to mid-September.

In their comments in opposition (PDF) to those demands, T-Mobile and Sprint said they did submit information about their spectrum holdings on June 18—information that’s been publicly available for almost two months.

“Movants’ complaint that Applicants submitted information in pdf format and did not provide a sum total of spectrum for each market, and that movants are therefore ‘left with the time consuming task of calculating spectrum aggregation by hand in more than 3,200 local markets covering 79 pages of data’ is meritless,” they told the commission.

T-Mobile and Sprint also said their previous filings described in great detail the amount of spectrum held by both companies—and the New T-Mobile—in each spectrum band and the competitive landscape for such licenses on a county-by-county basis.

Meanwhile, analysts at Macquarie Research in a research note Tuesday said the New T-Mobile will have economies of scale on par with AT&T and Verizon.

“At this pace, and should T-Mobile secure Sprint, we believe New T-Mobile could exceed AT&T’s market share within 5 years,” the analysts wrote.

With its 600 MHz spectrum, T-Mobile has capabilities for a broad but not deep 5G network, while the opposite is true for Sprint, which has its bevy of 2.5 GHz spectrum. Together, they benefit from total spectrum holdings of 311 MHz vs. AT&T/Verizon at 179 MHz/114 MHz and a well-balanced portfolio of 55 MHz/67 MHz/189 MHz of low/mid/high-band holdings, the Macquarie analysts noted.

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