FCC chairman hints spectrum rules will favor smaller carriers

|By:, SA News Editor

New FCC chairman Tom Wheeler: "Spectrum is finite ...  A key goal of our spectrum-allocation efforts is ensuring that multiple carriers have access to airwaves needed to operate their networks."

Wheeler also made note of an April DOJ filing calling on major upcoming FCC spectrum auctions (due in 2014, at the earliest) to be designed to guarantee smaller carriers get enough low-frequency airwaves (better for rural areas).

The remarks have been praised by Sprint (S -1.8%) and T-Mobile USA (TMUS +1.9%), who have been calling for such rules themselves. Bigger rivals AT&T (T -0.2%) and Verizon (VZ +0.7%), who between them own ~75% of the country's low-frequency mobile spectrum, probably aren't as pleased.

Sprint, which obtained a huge chunk of high-frequency (2.5GHz.) spectrum through the Clearwire deal, claims it would need 13-15 2.5GHz. cell sites to cover as much ground as one 700 MHz. site. T-Mobile is reportedly looking to buy unused 700MHz. spectrum from Verizon.

AT&T is set to acquire high-frequency (1.7-2.1GHz.) spectrum through the Leap Wireless deal, but (no doubt to appease the FCC) plans to have Leap sell 700MHz. spectrum it recently acquired for $204M.