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T-Mobile Trying to Block AT&T's 700 MHz Purchase

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Jun 24, 2015, 11:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

T-Mobile has filed a petition with the FCC in an attempt to prevent AT&T from purchasing select 700 MHz spectrum licenses. AT&T filed a request to transfer the licenses, which cover portions of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, last month. The Lower 700 MHz C Block licenses are owned by East Kentucky Network and cover 20 counties in three Cellular Market Areas. If approved, AT&T stands to hold 113 to 145 MHz of spectrum in total, and 43 to 55 MHz of below-1-GHz spectrum in these three CMAs. T-Mobile wants the FCC to deny AT&T's request on the grounds that it believes AT&T already owns too much low-band spectrum. "The license assignments sought would result in AT&T holding more than one-third of the spectrum below 1 GHz in the Huntington-Ashland and Lexington-Fayette CMAs. Although six entities currently hold low-band spectrum in these Markets, this transaction, if approved, will eliminate one of them entirely," argued T-Mobile. The Uncarrier has about 42,000 customers and ranks last in the areas involved. AT&T responded by saying, "AT&T will not exceed the Commission's spectrum aggregation screen and — because the spectrum at issue currently sits completely fallow and unused — the deal will not reduce any actual competition." AT&T also accused T-Mobile of under-investing in rural markets, including the ones at stake. "T-Mobile has only limited plans to invest in the rural markets covered by these licenses, particularly those in West Virginia. T-Mobile has 20-30 MHz of AWS spectrum in all of these markets that it could use to serve these rural communities if it chose. Finally, if T-Mobile wants low band spectrum for these markets, it could buy the 700 MHz A block spectrum and deploy it. Yet, T-Mobile chooses to do none of these." The FCC hasn't said if it will approve the deal or not, but because the spectrum in question falls below 1 GHz it will apply look more closely at the proposed deal.

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