The FCC is set to vote on the final rules for the upcoming 600 MHz incentive spectrum auction tomorrow, in accordance with the goals of the National Broadband Plan that were reiterated by Congress. Chairman Wheeler and the rest of the FCC’s commissioners are about to take a very important step to free up valuable low-band spectrum, a necessary input for the provision of wireless broadband coverage. As the FCC has repeatedly said, this auction is a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to feed the fast-growing demand for high-quality spectrum.
Given that these auctions are rare, the 600 MHz incentive auction presents the FCC with a unique opportunity to foster competition and innovation in wireless markets. As the FCC’s decision to block the T-Mobile-AT&T merger and the FCC’s most recent “Mobile Wireless Competition Report” illustrate, the mobile broadband marketplace faces key competitive challenges. The two biggest network providers, AT&T and Verizon, command nearly 70% of the industry profits and control nearly three-fourths of the high-quality, low-band spectrum. To his credit, the FCC Chairman acknowledges these issues. In a 2014 blog post on the 600 Mhz spectrum auction, Chairman Wheeler stated:
Today, however, two national carriers control the vast majority of that low-band spectrum. This disparity makes it difficult for rural consumers to have access to the competition and choice that would be available if more wireless competitors also had access to low-band spectrum. It also creates challenges for consumers in urban environments who sometimes have difficulty using their mobile phones at home or in their offices.
This is why the Commission has proposed creating a 30 MHz block of “reserve spectrum”, eligible only to non-dominant carriers. According to the Chairman, the point of the reserve is to prevent the dominant carriers from sweeping the auction and to maintain a “vibrant and competitive” auction.MORE »