Now that the FCC’s 600MHZ auction is finally over, it’s becoming clear who the winners are. Surprising many in the industry, AT&T and Verizon’s bidding activity was relatively lackluster, whereas T-Mobile spent $8B on 45% of the total low-band spectrum sold. Dish Network was another triumphant underdog, having purchased significantly more spectrum than towering rival, Comcast. To finalize the process, the FCC appointed 10 staffers to serve as regional coordinators to facilitate the subsequent repack phase which will take place through July 2020. The end of the auction means the FCC’s quiet period has been lifted – we can expect much more speculation around M&A activity in the wireless space now that participants can talk to each other again.
Going forward, the FCC is preparing a slew of new auctions – FCC Chairman Ajit Pai created a Rural Broadband Auctions task to streamline the provisioning of government subsidies for rural broadband development. Speaking of the Chairman, Pai received some high profile attention after announcing plans to roll back net neutrality laws. Proposed changes include the reclassification of broadband from a Title II telecommunications service to a Title I information service, the elimination of the Internet conduct standard, and the adjustment of “bright line” rules.
There’s been considerable optimism surrounding the development of 5G as of late, with some predicting that we’ll have customer-ready services launched before 2020. Various carriers already have plans for 5G trials using fixed wireless technology. In order for a real 5G rollout to hit the market anytime soon, it’s clear that there will need to be harmonization across licensed and unlicensed spectrum to ensure there’s enough flexibility across different technologies. Standards need to be solidified and some stress the importance of small carriers participating in this decision-making in order to help ensure interoperability. Look for Gigabit LTE rollouts in the interim, which will partially satisfy the desire for faster mobile speeds.
The major networks were active this month. AT&T announced it will introduce AT&T Fiber to eight new metro markets, incorporating two million locations. The company also kicked off an initiative to roll out 400,000 fixed wireless connections in underserved locations as part of its Connect America Fund commitment to the FCC. Verizon rebranded the media assets it acquired from Yahoo and AOL under the name “Oath.” Following the reveal of the new brand, Verizon largely put to rest speculation that it would acquire a major cable company, such as Charter Communications, deeming it would not be an “architectural fit” at this time. The company is still flying high though – its tests with LTE drones are alive and well. Finally, T-Mobile, the aforementioned victor in the wireless auction has hinted at plans to take advantage of the low-band spectrum to enhance its rural network, which previously suffered at the hands of its use of mid-band spectrum by deploying 600MHZ equipment.
That’s all for now. Don’t forget to stay tuned for up-to-date news and views from the Vertix team. Until next month…