T-Mobile is out to clarify what it calls several falsehoods that Verizon Wireless shared with the Federal Communications Commission in documents supporting the carriers plan to purchase spectrum from several cable companies and to enter a deal in which the parties would additionally sell the others products.
Steve Sharkey, T-Mobiles director of government affairs and engineering policy, makes three major assertions in an April 4 blog post: That Verizon is trying to make the FCC think the deal is not major and the FCC should simply rubber-stamp it, when in fact it will have great consequences; that Verizon has said its more efficient than T-Mobile, when the opposite is true; and that Verizon is a spectrum hoarder that doesnt need more, and so doesnt deserve, the spectrum it would receive from Comcast, Time Warner, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications, should the deal be approved.
These deals are anything but routine and, if granted, would unduly tip the scales in favor of the largest wireless carrier at a critical juncture in the mobile broadband industry, Sharkey wrote, addressing the first point.
To the second point, he wrote that Verizons justifying its buying spree by claiming its two-times more efficient than T-Mobile. Sharkey attacks the logic of this claim on a number of fronts.
First, Verizons analysis divides the carriers nationwide total subscribers by a nationwide average amount of spectrum. But mixing an absolute number of subscribers against a broad average of spectrum produces a pointless number, writes Sharkey. Because spectrum holdings and market share vary dramatically on a market-to-market basis, any meaningful analysis must be done at that level.
Sharkey adds that Verizon includes in its calculation spectrum that T-Mobile doesnt yet have access to, making its average appear lowerwhile it also leaves out the spectrum its in the process of acquiring from its own count.
Third, Sharkey writes that smartphones use approximately 35 times the data of feature phones, but Verizon doesnt factor in that T-Mobile has more bandwidth-hungry smartphone customers than Verizon.
T-Mobile Claims Verizons Calculations Are Pointless
Fourth and most importantly, Shakey adds, Verizon glosses over the fact that spectrum in frequency bands below 1GHz is far more efficient than those above it. All of T-Mobiles spectrum is above 1GHz, while the majority of Verizons is below it.
An analysis that takes these factors into account, writes Sharkey, reveals that T-Mobile is actually more efficient than Verizon is in all five of the top markets, eight of the top 10 markets, and 31 of the top 49 markets, and that, on average, T-Mobile is 50 percent more efficient than Verizon in the top markets.
As for Verizons tendency to hoard, Sharkey writes that after the 2006 FCC AWS auction, Verizon let spectrum sit idle for five and a half years and counting, and that it admits to sitting on capacity even while it looks to acquire more.
Indeed, Verizons chief financial officer recently noted that that only 5 percent of its customer base is using its new LTE [Long-Term Evolution] network at 700MHz, he added.
Why should Verizon be allowed to acquire what it already has when others are in more desperate need? It shouldnt, says Sharkey.
By denying Verizons spectrum deal with the cable companies, Sharkey explains, “the FCC would advance its pro-competitive goals for the wireless industry and create an environment in which the licenses could be made available to others who can put them to work immediately for the benefit of customers.
Since Verizon and the cable companies first announced the deal in December 2011, the group has come under scrutiny from a number of sources and for a number of reasons. U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), has been vocal about his fears that the marketing details of the arrangementin which Comcast would bundle Verizon products with its own, for examplewould turn rival companies into partners.
I fear this will ultimately mean less competition, less choice and higher prices for consumers, Franken wrote in a Jan. 31 letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.
A number of organizations have come out in favor of the deal, in as much as it would make idle spectrum available to consumersan assumption that Sharkey and T-Mobile suggest shouldnt be made.
Announcing the deal in December, Verizon CEO Dan Mead said in a statement, “Americans deserve excellence from a wireless service provider, and innovative wireless companies plan ahead in order to deliver on that expectation. Spectrum is the raw material on which wireless networks are built, and buying the AWS spectrum now solidifies our network leadership into the future, and will enable us to bring even better 4G LTE products and services to our customers.”
Before a Senate Subcommittee hearing March 22, Randall Milch, Verizon executive vice president and general counsel, testified that the bundles would be optional for customers and offer nothing other than convenience or a discount of sorts that the consumer can choose or not choose.