T-Mobile CEO John Legere talks a lot of smack. On stage, he’s a cyclone of cursing and boasting, snide remarks about the competition, as well as a complainer and apologist for T-Mobile. The company he leads seems to need all that help, too. As much as Legere brags up T-Mobile, signs of just how limited their service really is peek out now and then. In asking the FCC for more spectrum at a better price, T-Mobile is also admitting they’re not very competitive — but not humbly so.
T-Mobile says low-band spectrum in their hands scares the competition. In a blog post, T-Mobile VP of Federal Regulatory Affairs Kathleen Ham both admitted they needed the penetrating spectrum and asserted they didn’t have it because their competition is scared:
As our competitors well know, arming T-Mobile with low-band spectrum is a competitive game-changer, enabling our service to penetrate building walls better and travel longer distances than we can with the spectrum we have today. Imagine a T-Mobile with even greater coverage, offering innovative Un-carrier deals to even more customers in even more places – in direct competition with the Twin Bells!
If you’re unclear on the “Twin Bells” analogy, it references a telecommunications duopoly. In this case, AT&T and Verizon.
So why the smack talk this time? In an upcoming FCC spectrum auction, a small portion of the low-band stuff has been set aside for smaller carriers like T-Mobile. They like the idea, but also want the FCC to eliminate the base auction price, saying that the FCC’s rules for meeting a bottom-dollar price are arbitrary. They also want the FCC to reserve “at least” 50% of low-band spectrum for carriers like them.
So, yes T-Mobile wants a lot of low-band spectrum, but no they don’t want to pay what the FCC is deeming the minimum cost. they seem to think the spectrum auction is a spectrum swap-meet, and it’s time to haggle.
T-Mobile desperately needs low-band spectrum to compete, that much is certain. Whether or not the FCC needs to reserve it for them in mass quantities — or T-Mobile needs to put their money where their mouth is — is another matter altogether.