| WASHINGTON, April 12
WASHINGTON, April 12 Smaller wireless carriers
should be able to get a fair share of spectrum in the
forthcoming U.S. auction to ensure the market is competitive,
the Justice Department told the Federal Communications
Commission in a filing made public on Friday.
The filing underlines the high value placed on low-frequency
spectrum that will be auctioned off, and delivers a blow to the
two largest U.S. providers, Verizon Communications Inc
and AT&T Inc, in acquiring those airwaves.
"The Department concludes that rules that ensure the smaller
nationwide networks, which currently lack substantial
low-frequency spectrum, have an opportunity to acquire such
spectrum could improve the competitive dynamic among nationwide
carriers and benefit consumers," the Justice Department said.
Federal telecom regulators are drafting rules that would
guide a major shakeup of ownership of airwaves that carry radio
signal through a large and complex auction of some of the most
attractive spectrum, to be held in 2014 or possibly later.
Verizon and AT&T worry that the FCC's auction rules would
put caps on how much spectrum one provider could buy or
otherwise limit their participation in the auction. Sprint
and Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile, lagging far
behind as No. 3 and No. 4, have lobbied for assurances they
would be able to go to bat against their larger competitors.
In the filing, the Justice Department gave T-Mobile and
Sprint's arguments a boost.
Signed by the department's antitrust chief William Baer, the
filing urged the FCC to "maintain vigilance" against any efforts
to further concentrate market power, warning that carriers may
have incentives to buy spectrum not for better services or
efficient expansion but just to deprive competitors access to
the valuable airwaves and to keep costs high.
"A large incumbent may benefit from acquiring spectrum even
if its uses of the spectrum are not the most efficient if that
acquisition helps preserve high prices," the Justice Department
The four carriers did not immediately comment on the filing.
AT&T in the past has argued against valuing low-frequency
spectrum higher than other airwaves.
The Justice Department suggested the FCC may want to allow
big carriers to buy "smaller blocks" of such spectrum "even if
it seeks to restrict the acquisition of larger blocks."