* FCC chief says opposing deal did not affect pricing
* Says opposition did not affect spectrum availability
* Also promises spectrum sharing tests
By Sinead Carew and Jasmin Melvin
NEW ORLEANS/WASHINGTON, May 8 The top U.S.
communications regulator on Tuesday defended his opposition to
AT&T Inc's failed bid for T-Mobile USA last year and fired
back at claims that the decision caused price increases for the
wireless carrier's customers and more inefficient use of
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius
Genachowski blasted AT&T for suggesting that U.S. regulators
worsened the spectrum crunch or prompted higher prices, during a
keynote speech at the CTIA annual wireless industry conference
in New Orleans.
The U.S. Justice Department and FCC both challenged late
last year AT&T's attempt to add capacity to its network through
a $39 billion plan to buy smaller rival T-Mobile USA from
The government said the deal would reduce competition and
lead to higher wireless prices for consumers and businesses.
AT&T gave up its bid in December, but its chief executive,
Randall Stephenson, has repeatedly sharply criticized the FCC
after the decision.
"Some have recently argued that the government's review of
transactions in the wireless space - or, let's be frank, review
of one specific transaction - is somehow causing a shortage of
spectrum and leading that company to raise prices for
consumers," Genachowski said. "The overall amount of spectrum
has not changed."
He also lashed out at the notion that the country's spectrum
could be used more efficiently if the market had fewer bigger
competitors who could invest more in their networks.
"The notion that competition drives spectrum inefficiency is
at odds with our history of mobile," Genachowski said.
Instead Genachowski said that operators should look for ways
to manage their networks more efficiently to get more out of the
spectrum they own while the FCC works on making more spectrum
AT&T countered by referencing Genachowski's statements at
last year's CTIA conference, where he said consumers would face
higher prices if the market were forced to respond to supply and
"The FCC was within its rights to withhold its approval. But
it is incorrect when it denies the impact such decisions have on
the price of wireless services," Jim Cicconi, AT&T's chief
lobbyist, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Genachowski also said on Tuesday that the telecoms regulator
will move ahead with tests for sharing spectrum between the
government and commercial wireless operators.
The move is one element in a bigger FCC plan to increase
capacity for rapidly expanding consumer demand for mobile data
services, Genachowski said.
In 2010, the administration said it would make 500 megahertz
of spectrum available in the next 10 years.
The growing use of wireless devices like Apple Inc's
iPad tablet and Google Inc's suite of
Android-powered smartphones has added to the urgency to find
Spectrum is expected to be a major topic at the show among
Genachowski said the FCC is ready to work with the National
Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which
manages government spectrum, on the tests aimed at discovering
whether it is feasible for government users to share the same
spectrum with commercial wireless operators.
NTIA proposed in March giving wireless companies access to
another 95 megahertz of spectrum - almost 20 percent of the
target set by the Obama administration - by relocating some
federal systems and allowing others to share spectrum with
The agency said sharing would be necessary as the proceeds
from an auction of that spectrum band might not exceed the cost
of relocating government operations and could take more than a
NTIA said it will begin convening discussions between
industry and federal agencies at the end of the month to sort
out concerns over their spectrum sharing proposal.