One of the key talking points from AT&T in support of the T-Mobile merger is that it "needs" T-Mobile's spectrum in order to expand its planned 4G/LTE networks to cover 97% of the population. And, there's no doubt that having T-Mobile's spectrum will make it easier
, but that's not the same as it being necessary
. As Broadband Reports has been pointing out for a while, Verizon has less spectrum than AT&T but can cover the same 97% of the population with it. Apparently a lawyer for AT&T accidentally posted a document to the FCC's site that more or less admits that AT&T doesn't need T-Mobile's spectrum
, and that it could invest $3.8 billion to catch up to Verizon in terms of LTE coverage. $3.8 billion is a fair bit of money, but it's a hell of a lot less than the $38 billion that it's spending for T-Mobile. Yes, AT&T also gets T-Mobile subscribers with that, but it certainly raises questions about AT&T's claims that it would be too "costly" to invest to get to 97% coverage with its existing spectrum. As BBR notes, the timing of the letter also suggests that AT&T knew it was planning to buy T-Mobile when it decided to claim that it would "not" build out its network, perhaps recognizing that this would help give it a talking point for why the merger should be allowed.