FCC Said Poised to Deny T-Mobile Help to Get More Airwaves

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T-Mobile US Inc.’s bid for government help to buy more airwaves in a 2016 wireless auction is poised for defeat in voting by U.S. regulators, two people familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

A proposal by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to deny the company’s request has gained three votes, or the needed majority, in electronic balloting at the five-member agency, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because the vote hasn’t been made public.

T-Mobile, the fourth-largest U.S. mobile carrier, had asked the FCC to reserve more airwaves for bidding by carriers other than AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., the largest ones. Kim Hart, an FCC spokeswoman, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

T-Mobile wants the FCC to put in place safeguards to ensure competitors to AT&T and Verizon can bid for reserved airwaves early in the auction, said Andy Levin, senior vice president for government affairs.

The FCC plans next year to auction frequencies that travel far and penetrate buildings, and so are particularly well suited to meeting soaring demand from smartphones.

T-Mobile said enlarging the swath reserved for smaller carriers would help boost competition by keeping AT&T and Verizon 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.