A few weeks ago, T-Mobile filed an ex parte suggesting that AT&T had contradicted statements made to the FCC in connection with the acquisition of certain 700 MHz licenses in a few rural markets in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. As we explain in a filing today, T-Mobile’s claims are flatly incorrect.
AT&T is continuing to acquire 700 MHz spectrum in rural communities around the country. This is part of our ongoing commitment to bring LTE to rural America, a commitment that T-Mobile does not appear to share. At the same time, AT&T is seeking a rule change that will permit us to provide LTE services more efficiently on our existing 850 MHz deployments. And this is part of our effort to effectively utilize our current spectrum resources for the benefit of our customers.
It is an undisputed fact that T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T have all successfully deployed LTE networks using high-band spectrum. Yet the fact remains that AT&T’s LTE deployment strategy historically has centered around our lower 700 MHz band. And, in the absence of 700 MHz spectrum, it should be no surprise that AT&T can more rapidly expand an existing LTE network on cellular spectrum than it could construct a new LTE network on another band. But that does not mean that high-band spectrum cannot be used to offer competitive LTE services, as T-Mobile suggests.
T-Mobile also complains (again) that our 700 MHz acquisition in these rural markets is motivated by a desire to “withhold the resource from actual or potential competitors.” The acquisition of the lower 700 MHz spectrum in the transaction cited will enable AT&T to enhance its LTE network. AT&T’s track record clearly demonstrates that the addition of adjacent 700 MHz spectrum is a very efficient means to enhance service and thus enhance competition in rural America.
And the Commission has repeatedly found foreclosure to be unlikely where, as here, spectrum was offered openly through a broker so that other entities had the opportunity to acquire it. Not only were the East Kentucky licenses offered on the open market through a broker, but T-Mobile was given the opportunity to purchase the licenses and declined to make a formal offer.
It’s time to stop the magenta madness. These rural markets deserve better. AT&T’s proposed acquisition of 700 MHz spectrum in the affected areas of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia will bring a higher-quality LTE network and its associated public interest benefits to consumers in these markets without harming competition. The FCC should approve the deal promptly.