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Cable Technology Feature Article

April 23, 2012

FCC Reviews Potential Verizon Airwaves Deal with T-Mobile

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

Verizon has recently announced plans to buy $3.6 billion in airwaves from cable companies, and the FCC has dispatched a regulatory official to T-Mobile (News - Alert) to discuss the arrangement and get some criticism of the deal in the process.

On April 19, according to filings dated April 20, the FCC's wireless bureau chief Rick Kaplan went to T-Mobile's headquarters in Bellevue, Washington to discuss the Verizon deal with T-Mobile CEO Philipp Humm, and later with the Washington Technology Industry Association group as well. T-Mobile, not surprisingly, asked regulators to block Verizon's purchase, saying it would "result in too concentrated ownership of airwaves for mobile calls and data."

Back in December, Verizon announced intentions to purchase a quantity of unused airspace from Comcast and Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable and the companies had intended to perform joint marketing on the deal. Verizon also planned to sell some of its other airwaves, including potentially some airwaves that it wasn't using anyway, should the deal go through. Such a measure, however, didn't sway T-Mobile's negative assessment of the deal, which included phrases like "less competition and higher prices."

Verizon was comparatively indignant, responding that T-Mobile "ignores facts on the ground" as well as the benefits to consumers who are always hungry for more data access to use with their mobile devices, especially in light of the recent release of the new iPad. And indeed, considering that T-Mobile is, at last report, fourth in the marketplace behind Verizon, AT&T (News - Alert) and Sprint, it's not surprising that T-Mobile might well respond to government inquiry with a desperate plea to please stop Verizon from getting still bigger. Considering that Verizon is currently the largest firm in the industry, however, T-Mobile's pleas do carry some merit in their own right. Perhaps it would have been better to discuss the matter with AT&T or Sprint (News - Alert) instead of the dark horse in the race, but that's the FCC's call to make.

Just what will come of the FCC's investigation into Verizon -- they're also reportedly examining Verizon's plans to buy $315 million in airwaves from Cox (News - Alert) Communications -- remains to be seen, but with Verizon plotting aggressive expansion, it's clear that the road ahead won't be smooth.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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