This article has been updated with comment from AT&T.
T-Mobile and Sprint are among a group that today urged the FCC to “carefully scrutinize” several pending AT&T transactions for low-band spectrum.
The group, which also includes representatives from Comptel, Public Knowledge, and CCIA, is concerned that AT&T will control more than one-third of the available low-band spectrum in some markets should the transactions be approved. As the group points out, the FCC pledged in the Mobile Spectrum Holdings Report and Order to apply “enhanced review” of transactions that would create concentrations that exceed the one-third limit (approximately 45 MHz).
The FCC claimed this “enhanced factor” in its review process would mitigate potential harm to competition and public interest, according to the filing.
But the group says that the “enhanced factor” of review for low-band spectrum transactions that push the aggregation limit has yet to be defined and that AT&T is “seizing” upon the lack of clarity.
The FCC already requires applicants to provide evidence that proposed transactions will not harm public interest, but the filing points out that “enhanced factor” review should include a “detailed demonstration” of how benefits outweigh potential harm.
The group says AT&T has been busy bolstering its portfolio through secondary-market transactions for low-band spectrum. It warns that if AT&T is allowed to complete its pending transactions, it would “deny competitors the opportunity to enter or expand services in the market.”
“AT&T is confident that after a careful, enhanced factor review, the Bureau will conclude that both of these small deals will cause no harm to competition and will result in significant public interest benefits,” an AT&T spokesperson told Wireless Week.
Today’s request for heightened scrutiny over proposed low-band spectrum transactions that meet or exceed the one-third threshold echoes rules the FCC put in place for the 600 MHz broadcast incentive auctions scheduled for 2015.
Earlier this year, the FCC announced it would reserve up to 30 MHz in each market that could only be bid on by applicants holding less than one-third the available low-band spectrum in each market. The proposal mostly affects AT&T and Verizon, which together hold the vast majority of available low-band spectrum.