AT&T Whines That The T-Mobile Merger Consolidated Too Much U.S. Spectrum In One Place

from the glass-houses dept

AT&T and Verizon didn't have much to say as T-Mobile was lobbying for Sprint merger approval. In large part because most of the downsides of the merger -- such as lower overall pay for sector employees -- or higher overall prices due to a consolidated lack of competition -- aided the two wireless giants.

Now that the deal's done, AT&T (no stranger to mindless consolidation and monopolization itself) is apparently concerned that the deal consolidated too much spectrum in the hands of one company. Namely, T-Mobile. From a FCC filing this week spotted by Ars Technica:

"The combination of Sprint and T-Mobile has resulted in an unprecedented concentration of spectrum in the hands of one carrier. In fact, the combined company exceeds the Commission's spectrum screen, often by a wide margin, in Cellular Market Areas representing 82 percent of the US population, including all major markets."

This is apparently part of a new trend at AT&T where it engages in bad faith critiques of U.S. policy despite decades engaging in the same or worse behavior (see AT&T's terrible take on Section 230, or its bad faith claim that it wants a real privacy law). In this case AT&T, a company that has benefited for decades from feeble U.S. restrictions on "spectrum squatting" (hoarding valuable wireless spectrum either for sale or simply so smaller competitors can't use it to hurt you), is now just super concerned about the practice when somebody else does it. From a companion blog post by the company:

"Given this unprecedented level of spectrum concentration in the hands of a single carrier, we have entered a new era for the FCC’s spectrum acquisition analytical tools. The Commission must now take action to reaffirm the importance of a spectrum aggregation tool and define a meaningful approach going forward."

Now that another company has abused feckless U.S. oversight to its own advantage, AT&T wants the FCC to do something. Whereas when AT&T, which dominated the wireless sector for the better part of the last two decades engaged in the same sort of hoarding, there was nothing to worry about.

The FCC does have a spectrum screen it uses to determine when accumulation of spectrum raises consolidation flags, but, like so much with U.S. telecom regulators, often isn't accompanied by substantive action. Especially if those triggering the flag happen to be politically-powerful telecom giants all but fused to the nation's intelligence-gathering apparatus. Given reports suggest the Trump FCC didn't even look at the data (or existing complaints about T-Mobile spectrum hoarding) before rubber stamping the T-Mobile merger, it shouldn't be surprising that policy inconsistencies got lost in the weeds.

Perhaps AT&T officials could come testify before Congress about the perils of mindless consolidation and regulatory capture?

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Filed Under: competition, fcc, spectrum, wireless
Companies: at&t, t-mobile


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2020 @ 7:51am

    This means that america will have slow 5g compared to other countrys
    where spectrum hoarding is not allowed ,
    companys need to have acess to certain amounts of spectrum in order to provide a 5g service that is faster than 4g,
    especially since more 5g towers have to be built to provide a good signal ,
    5g does not go as far as 4g in a given area .
    Of course the us telecom market is run on crony capitalism and mega mergers
    that reduce competition and increase prices for the average consumer.
    the trump administration just agrees to any merger regardless if it provides
    any benefit to consumers .
    At this point the rational thing to do would be block all mergers for the next 10 years in the telecom marketplace.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2020 @ 3:12pm

      Re:

      There should be no merger forever after this debacle, which should have not been allowed, along with all others for the last 40 years.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 23 Sep 2020 @ 8:13am

    Some of the commenters on the Ars article have posted a link to analysis of who own how much of the "5G" mmWave bands.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2020 @ 8:47am

    The thought of AT&T struggling to keep its movie studios open in the face of outright competition is enough to keep the cockles of my heart dangerously hot. Maybe they can make a documentary about a lone $50-million-dollar-a-year CEO bravely facing adversity and public obloquy, capsizing customer-facing workers from port and starboard decks of the ancient but innovative ship of state, cutting benefits and creatively restating debts, winning administrative and congressional hearts and minds through silver-tongued oratory and silver-studded handshakes....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 23 Sep 2020 @ 1:23pm

    Sour grapes never get any sweeter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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