T-Mobile Failing to Win Airwaves Auction Request at U.S. FCC

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T-Mobile US Inc.’s request for help to buy more airwaves in a 2016 auction headed toward failure as a U.S. regulator said Thursday he opposes the company’s request.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is against T-Mobile’s suggestion of a change in the auction’s rules to make purchases easier for smaller companies, he said in a blog post.

The FCC in 2016 plans to auction airwaves to help mobile providers meet demand for their signals. T-Mobile wants the agency to increase the amount set aside, or reserved, for companies other than the largest carriers AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc.

The current reserve size “balances the desire to make low-band spectrum available to parties with limited holdings while facilitating competitive bidding for all auction participants,” Wheeler said in the blog.

Wheeler needs to win a vote at the five-member agency where he leads the Democratic majority.

The commission should heed calls from the Justice Department, many members of Congress and “a slew of consumer groups” to strengthen the reserve, Andy Levin, T-Mobile’s senior vice president of government affairs, said in an e-mailed statement.

The Justice Department in a June 24 letter said some groups have called for a larger reserve and asked the FCC to give “considerable weight” to promoting competition.

T-Mobile says the rules change is needed to keep the largest carriers from winning the lion’s share of available airwaves. AT&T and Verizon have said the proposal would serve to protect T-Mobile from competition.

Television stations are surrendering the licenses that will be offered in the auction, and will be reimbursed from the proceeds.

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