In what's a bit of a softer tone from the pettiness
AT&T exhibited after its attempted T-Mobile takeover was blocked by the FCC for being anti-competitive, AT&T CEO had a little praise for the agency this week
for being speedy about processing and approving spectrum swaps. What hasn't changed is AT&T's continued insistence that there's a spectrum crunch that's threatening the very fabric of the universe. In an editorial in the Wall Street Journal
, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson sang a familiar tune:
...we're in a race against time. The demand for spectrum will exceed supply by 2013, according to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates. If that happens, the speed of the mobile revolution will slow down. Prices, download times and consumer frustration will all increase. And at a societal level we risk jeopardizing the future of our nation's vital mobile Internet infrastructure, which is generating jobs and investment on a scale well beyond the first Internet boom of the 1990s.
Granted Stephenson doesn't mention that prices at AT&T increase no matter what happens
, and that much of the spectrum strain AT&T is feeling is thanks to the inefficient AT&T use of resources, including being sluggish to refarn AT&T's 2G (EDGE) spectrum
. Also unmentioned is that the usage estimates traditionally used by AT&T to project that demand will outpace spectrum supply are generally nonsense and inflated for scary political effect
. The FCC's own predictions have proven to be equally unreliable.
As we've noted in recent months, AT&T appears a little nervous about Dish's planned LTE network, not wanting the added competition while also lusting after Dish's acquired spectrum. As such, the company has been trying to get the FCC to pass rules that would impose unreasonable time constrictions on regulations on Dish
so that the spectrum would fall into the lap of the nation's duopoly.
That said, some analysts do think that Dish's entire LTE build is a bluff, designed largely to drive up the cost of the spectrum ahead of a sale. Stephenson's editorial seams primarily aimed at the Dish situation, the CEO calling on the FCC to work on rules that would require that spectrum holders put the spectrum to work:
Require spectrum holders to put the airwaves to work. Many spectrum holders are speculators seeking an investment gain, with no intent to build a mobile network. We should discourage speculation and do more to ensure that spectrum goes to companies with the experience and means to put it to work. If a buyer hasn't used the spectrum within a reasonable time periodwhich could vary depending on the spectrum's technical properties or use restrictionsthey would either have to put it up for sale, lease it or find a partner who can build it out.
Of course AT&T likely wouldn't want any new "use it or lose it" regulations applied to themselves, as they're generally only in favor of regulation if it applies to the other guy
. Dish's LTE ambitions may be legitimate or they may not be, but what AT&T wants is rules that ensure that smaller competitors face all manner of build time contraints, or the spectrum defaults to the nation's incumbent duopoly. On that note, Stephenson this week unsurprisingly stated that AT&T will be front and center when it comes to nabbing spectrum at Verizon's upcoming sale
, and that AT&T is watching the regulatory approval of Verizon's cable deal with great interest.