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T-Mobile report slams VZW’s use of spectrum

Fri, 06/01/2012 - 1:05pm
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week

Roberson and Associates studyA new study conducted by Roberson and Associates and commissioned by T-Mobile USA refutes Verizon Wireless' claim that it is the most efficient of the major U.S. carriers in its use of spectrum.

In fact, the study, which T-Mobile presented in a report to the FCC, concludes that when certain "corrections" were taken into account, Verizon Wireless scores dead last amongst the four major carriers in the United States in its use of spectrum.

T-Mobile offers the report as ammunition in its fight to block Verizon Wireless' bid to purchase 122 AWS licenses for $3.6 billion from Bright House Networks, Comcast and Time Warner Cable. In a separate deal, Verizon has also offered to pay Cox Communications $315 million for its AWS holdings.

Key to the Roberson report's findings are “corrections,” which account for the difference in spectral efficiency between T-Mobile's high-band 1700 MHz spectrum and Verizon's more efficient 700 MHz holdings.

Roberson's report also takes into account the average T-Mobile customer's per-month data usage, which it pegs at 1,700 MB, an industry high. That figure is 50 percent higher than the 1,200 MB per month that Sprint users were consuming, followed by Verizon Wireless’ figure (902 MB) and AT&T's (724 MB).

After accounting for average smartphone mix, usage and available spectral efficiency, T-Mobile was the most efficient user of spectrum in 34 of the 50 major markets included in the report. Sprint was second and was most efficient in 10 markets, followed by AT&T and Verizon.

While T-Mobile doesn't expect the issue of spectral efficiency to be central to any FCC ruling on Verizon's current bids for additional AWS spectrum, it's concerned that all the facts be on the table.

"Verizon brought this issue to the table, repeatedly ... that's what we were responding to," said Steve Sharkey, T-Mobile's director of government affairs for technology and engineering policy, during a call with reporters. "To the extent that the FCC might take this into consideration, we wanted to make sure the correct facts were in front of them."

Verizon shot back with a statement of its own: “T-Mobile’s efforts to manipulate the numbers by putting its thumb on the scale to make itself look better are meritless and simply an attempt to distract from the fact that it and its parents at DT made a conscious effort to pursue other paths while we continued to invest.

“T-Mobile cannot contest – and has not even tried to contest – our customers’ need for additional spectrum given their growing demand for and use of spectrum-intensive, high-speed broadband apps and services,” Verizon added.

In a March 2 filing with the FCC, Verizon argued that it currently serves 109 million wireless customer connections using an average of 89 MHz nationwide, with each megahertz of spectrum serving, on average, 1.23 million customer connections. Post-transaction, Verizon contends those wireless connections would be served using an average of 109 MHz nationwide, with each megahertz of spectrum serving, on average, almost 1 million customer connections.

T-Mobile and MetroPCS have asked the government to block Verizon’s spectrum transaction with cable companies because it would result in what they characterize as "excessive concentration" of spectrum in Verizon's control, a claim Verizon has refuted, saying that without the additional AWS spectrum, it could run into shortages as early as 2013.

Verizon Wireless has announced plans to sell off its 700 MHz A- and B-block spectrum licenses, contingent upon FCC approval of its bid to purchase the AWS licenses. T-Mobile and others have argued that the licenses Verizon has offered up would interfere with existing television transmission, specifically Channel 51. Philipp Humm, T-Mobile USA's CEO, said that spectrum is "not interesting" during an earnings call, adding that interference issues could take up to six years to resolve.

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