T-Mobile and a few associations object to a Comcast-Verizon agreement to transfer spectrum licenses and to market each other’s services.  The agreement is in the consumer’s interest and the transferred spectrum will improve the availability of 4G services rather than letting the spectrum continue to lie fallow.  T-Mobile’s objection to the spectrum transfer is at best strange.

Just 4 months ago, the planned sale of T-Mobile to AT&T was halted by regulators, on grounds that it would remove T-Mobile as a viable competitor (4th after Sprint).  The breakup triggered a $4 billion breakup fee which was pocketed by Deutsche Telecom, T-Mobile’s German parent.  AT&T’s intent had been to use T-Mobile’s underused spectrum to alleviate the mobile network congestion suffered by AT&T’s customers.  Deutsche Telecom’s goal had been to exit the field and rescue its investment in T-Mobile.

Deutsche Telecom says T-Mobile is still a viable competitor suffering no bandwidth shortage.  Indeed, T-Mobile has not been interested in purchasing additional spectrum in the marketplace.  It has plenty of conventional mobile spectrum and 2 bands of LTE-suitable spectrum (10 MHz each) that are empty and that will accommodate expansion needs until 2017-2018. 

T-Mobile is currently laying off US employees to improve its financials.  It is unclear who might be interested in buying T-Mobile, but it is clear that they would face a thin workforce, plenty of underused spectrum, and no preemptive commitment to any particular 4G technology.   

In contrast, with overabundance at T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T face spectrum shortages.  When they acquire spectrum, they quickly invest in new technologies and staff to support the 3G and 4G mobile wireless applications.  These aggressive investments have been the foundation to their success.  The spectrum that Verizon is acquiring from Comcast and others will follow suit.  Verizon will put up for sale any minor amounts of spectrum on particular pathways where it already has enough.  

T-Mobile’s objection to Verizon receiving Comcast’s spectrum is not based on T-Mobile’s need for spectrum.  Deutsche Telecom’s recent efforts strongly suggest these regulatory tactics are aimed at putting Comcast’s spectrum off limits – thereby pushing Verizon into spectrum congestion and making T-Mobile and its under-taxed spectrum even more valuable.  The FCC should see T-Mobile’s antics for what they are.  Prompt approval of the Comcast-Verizon spectrum transfer would be helpful to consumers.

Alan Daley is a retired businessman who lives in Colorado and who follows public policy from a consumer’s perspective.