August 29, 2018
Voqal, a collaboration of five nonprofits that hold Educational Broadband Service (EBS) licenses, filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission asking it to deny the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint as currently proposed.
Voqal believes the proposed Sprint/T-Mobile merger raises numerous questions. But one that may not come immediately to mind is the new company’s ability and incentive to exercise market power over the wireless spectrum band at 2.5 GHz as it develops its 5G network.
The use of the 2.5 GHz spectrum band will be critical in the coming years. As a matter of physics and as result of past regulatory policy, the 2.5 GHz spectrum is a “sweet spot” for developing 5G. Sitting in the “mid-band” of spectrum frequencies, the 2.5 band offers a unique combination of propagation and data capacity advantages. Not too low in frequency, not too high, it’s just right for the deployment of 5G. The proposed merger would ensure that the merged entity (“New T-Mobile”) would control virtually all of this key spectrum.
“This market power would have negative, anticompetitive consequences for both the acquisition of spectrum and wireless broadband services for consumers,” said Voqal President John Schwartz.
It is important that the FCC consider the negative consequences this merger would have on both the consumer and the marketplace. Voqal urges the FCC to block this merger, or at the minimum, require divestiture of no less than one third of Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum in each Cellular Market Area (CMA) in a contiguous block. Voqal provides three options for accomplishing this in its petition to the FCC.
Read the full petition and other comments about the proposed merger here.