T-Mobile subsidiaries get FCC approval to bid in Mobility Fund auction

The FCC said that four T-Mobile USA subsidiaries can participate in its forthcoming Mobility Fund reverse auction, which aims to spread mobile broadband coverage to rural parts of the country.

In an order, the FCC designated the subsidiaries as eligible telecommunications carriers, or ETCs, allowing them to participate in the Universal Service Fund, of which the Mobility Fund is a part. Practically it means T-Mobile can participate in the Mobility Fund Phase I auction scheduled to take place in September.

The four subsidiaries include PowerTel/Memphis in Alabama and Tennessee; T-Mobile Central LLC in Alabama; T-Mobile South LLC in Florida and North Carolina; and T-Mobile Northeast LLC in New Hampshire, New York and Virginia.

In May the FCC set out the rules for the auction, which will be held online using the FCC's auction system. Applications to participate were opened June 27 and must be filed by July 11. A fake auction will take place Sept. 25, followed by the real auction starting Sept. 27. The FCC will give up to $300 million in one-time Mobility Fund support to carriers that agree to provide 3G or LTE service to areas that do not currently have mobile voice and broadband coverage. Carriers will bid for the amount of support they need to meet the Mobility Fund Phase I service and other public interest obligations in the eligible census blocks covered by the geographic area on which they bid.

The FCC said that the four subsidiaries meet the technical requirements of being an ETC. The FCC also found that granting support to T-Mobile would be in the public interest.

"Enabling otherwise qualified parties to participate in this process may encourage more aggressive auction competition, thus lowering bids and permitting greater mobile coverage with the limited amount of support available in Phase I of the Mobility Fund," the commission wrote in the order. "We further find T-Mobile has deployed an advanced communications network that should make it capable of delivering supported services thought any area for which it becomes authorized to receive Mobility Fund support, consistent with the goals of Mobility Fund Phase I."

The Mobility Fund is part of the Connect America Fund that the FCC approved in November 2011 to overhaul its outdated universal service and intercarrier compensation systems in an effort to connect everyone in the United States to broadband. Phase II of the Mobility Fund is supposed to provide $500 million annually for ongoing support of mobile services.

For more:
- see this FCC order (PDF)
- see this Phone Scoop article

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