* Sprint, T-Mobile, MetroPCS write letters to FCC
* Say concerned about Verizon plans to buy spectrum
* FCC, DOJ probing Verizon's two deals with cable companies
* Lawmakers also scrutinizing deals
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, Feb 22 Rivals to Verizon
Wireless are urging U.S. communications regulators to block the
company's multibillion dollar deals to buy wireless airwaves
from cable operators, saying the transactions will hurt
In letters released this week, rivals Sprint Nextel Corp
, T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS Communications Inc
expressed concerns about the spectrum transfer.
Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile said in its letter
to the Federal Communications Commission that the deals would
result in "an excessive concentration" of spectrum holdings and
are a defensive move to prevent smaller competitors from getting
No. 1 U.S. carrier Verizon Wireless announced plans on Dec.
2 to pay Comcast Corp and Time Warner Cable Inc
$3.6 billion in a spectrum and marketing deal. Verizon
reached a similar deal with privately held cable operator Cox
Communications, worth $315 million, which was announced in
The FCC is reviewing whether the two deals are in the
public's interest, while the U.S. Justice Department is probing
the deal for any antitrust concerns.
Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications
Inc and Vodafone Group Plc, has said it needs
more spectrum to support increased consumer demand for videos
and other services that soak up bandwidth.
"We believe the spectrum purchase is in the public interest,
addressing consumer needs, and putting spectrum to work to meet
growing demand for 4G services," Verizon spokesman Ed McFadden
said in response to critics.
Wireless carriers have clamored for more airwaves to stave
off a looming spectrum crunch. 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 more airwaves.
AT&T abandoned its bid to buy T-Mobile after the Justice
Department sued to block the deal. AT&T had said it needed the
acquisition to get more wireless spectrum to support increasing
demand for wireless data.
T-Mobile argued in its letter to the FCC that the spectrum
purchase would not bring near-term benefits to Verizon Wireless,
as the company already owns similar spectrum that it has not yet
put to use.
"Rather, the principal impact of the acquisition would be to
foreclose the possibility that this spectrum could be acquired
by smaller competitors," the company said.
The spectrum buy would be part of broader agreements to
create a joint venture and allow the cable operators to resell
Verizon's mobile service.
Opponents of the transactions say they would mean that
companies that are rivals in some businesses, like cable and
Internet, would become allies in the wireless business.
T-Mobile and MetroPCS said in their filings that the agency
should deny Verizon's spectrum deals, and Sprint asked for a
careful evaluation of all the implications.
The deals "would result in widespread collaboration and
cooperation between providers of the only two wireline
ecosystems in vast parts of the country," Sprint said in its
filing to the FCC.
Lawmakers are also scrutinizing the deals, although they
have no official role in the review.
The Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, competition
policy and consumer rights is holding a hearing on March 21 to
consider whether the deals pose a threat to competition and