Salt in the Wound

As if it hadn’t already been rough going this week for AT&T, today brings news that Verizon has made a $3.6B deal to buy 122 Advanced Wireless Services spectrum licenses from SpectrumCo LLC (a joint venture between Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House). In the accelerating spectrum wars, this potentially gives Verizon a big leg up on AT&T in expanding its mobile service capacity. While AT&T sought (probably still seeks) to buy T-Mobile, another full service provider like itself, Verizon is choosing to just pursue the specific asset it needs. With AT&T’s willingness to sell off T-Mobile customers to Leap in hopes of appeasing the Dept of Justice, the desire for the increased spectrum T-Mobile would bring is more readily apparent.

How will the FCC treat this new Verizon deal? Will it see the pursuit of this additional spectrum as putting Verizon in a similarly position to the AT&T/T-Mobile deal, which the FCC intepreted as creating an “unprecedented level of concentration in the wireless market”? Or will it be more lenient in allowing just one player to expand its core infrastructure by acquiring what others already hold? It promises a “thorough, fair and fact-based review” of the deal. Perhaps AT&T would be better served by trying a similar approach.

If other companies’ spectrum licenses are for sale, they undoubtedly will go to the highest bidder, which still leaves smaller service providers behind. We still need a fair and equitable way for the FCC to ensure access to those other than the telecom giants. Keeping a close eye on my mobile phone bill…

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