CCA Wants FCC to Stay AT&T/FiberTower License Transfer

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UPDATE The Competitive Carriers Association opposes the transfer of millimeter-wave (“mmW”) spectrum licenses from FiberTower to AT&T Mobility Spectrum LLC. CCA asked the full Commission to stay the decision.

CCA says the agency approved the transaction based on incomplete and flawed public interest analysis, and challenged the Commission to put a hold on its consent order while it reviews the decision of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. “Millimeter wave spectrum offers tremendous opportunities for carriers as they move toward deploying next generation technologies,” said CCA President/CEO Steve Berry. “Rather than giving AT&T a head start advantage with FiberTower’s valuable mmW licenses, while providing FiberTower an incredible windfall for spectrum that has lied fallow for years, the Commission should make the terminated licenses available to any qualified applicant through auction.” 

A day after the bureau okayed the license transfer last month, AT&T closed on its $207 million acquisition of Fiber Tower, giving it 478 licenses of millimeter wave spectrum it intends to use to roll out 5G services later this year.  

That followed the January 26 resolution of disputes between FiberTower and the agency over meeting build-out deadlines. To end the litigation and pave the way for the acquisition, FiberTower gave up all of its 94 licenses in the 24 GHz band and 595 licenses in the 39 GHz band. AT&T also agreed to pay the U.S. Treasury $27 million. At the time, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said the full Commission should have made the decision, rather than the bureau. Like CCA, she said the bureau review was incomplete.

T-Mobile and CCA wanted the FCC to auction FiberTower’s 24 GHz and 39 GHz licenses instead. But the bureau disagreed, saying that allowing the license transfer serves the public interest because it will enable more rapid 5G deployment. Some of the former FiberTower shareholders also opposed the deal, arguing that an earlier FiberTower bankruptcy proceeding was unfair to them because the telecom’s spectrum holdings were valued at an artificially low level. The bureau said anything related to the bankruptcy was outside the agency’s purview.

March 15, 2018                      

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