T-Mobile Proposes Sliding Screen for Incentive Auctions

Tells FCC it Would Promote Competition



T-Mobile has a plan for part of the broadcast incentive auctions -- the one where, presumably, wireless companies primarily bid for reclaimed spectrum -- and it involved a sliding spectrum screen depending on how the bidding goes.

The FCC has asked for input in a separate proceeding on whether it should adjust the screen it uses to gauge whether concentration of spectrum in individual markets triggers additional scrutiny for anticompetitive effects.

But T-Mobile is recommending that its auction rules include a built-in sliding screen, which it pitches as a way to provide a real-world test of such a screen applied to auctions in general. "By relying on actual bids rather than predictions of bidder behavior, the Dynamic Market Rule helps remove any risk that revenue targets for clearing broadcasters and funding the FirstNet public safety network will not be met," the company says.

According to the company, which outlined the proposal Monday, in meetings last week with FCC staffers, T-Mobile proposed a "Dynamic Market Rule," which it billed as a "seamless" way to ensure against "excessive concentration" of low-band spectrum.

Under the rule, bidding would begin with "spectrum aggregation" limits, with a carve-out that would allow AT&T and Verizon, the two largest carriers, to bid on a block of 5 MHz in markets where they exceed the screen -- which would be one-third of the low-band spectrum in a market. If the FCC meets its revenue target, that auction could close. But if not, the screen would be gradually relaxed, and ultimately lifted altogether.

"Imposing modest constraints on excessive low-band spectrum aggregation will promote competition, increase consumer choice, encourage innovation, and accelerate broadband deployment," the company said. It would also allow less-concentrated players, like T-Mobile -- a better chance to get spectrum in those markets.