By the Blouin News Technology staff

The U.S. wireless spectrum plot thickens

by in Enterprise Tech.

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bloomberg via Getty Images

The drama surrounding wireless market dominance in the U.S. is perpetual; AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint are the top four dogs of the wireless scene, and they are constantly at each others’ throats — sometimes in seemingly childish ways. The drama of late has heightened for a number of reasons including a highly-anticipated spectrum auction to come within the year, and a video gone viral from T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere’s Twitter account — which has added fresh fuel to the fire in his public tiffs with other wireless giants.

Legere’s video depicts T-Mobile as a force that will rescue American consumers from the clutches of AT&T and Verizon — both depicted physically attached to each other as a menacing duopoly. While Legere has been notorious for his antics at conferences, speaking events, on Twitter — and once trying to crash an AT&T party — his rhetoric about Verizon and AT&T’s dominance is not far from the truth. Both carriers have the majority of American wireless customers. But Legere’s recent public statements — whether it be videos or blog posts in which he lambasts those companies — come at a critical juncture for T-Mobile. With a spectrum auction looming, his attempt to paint Verizon and AT&T in negative lights bolsters his loud requests that the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) save airwaves during that pending auction for smaller companies, disabling Verizon and AT&T from dominating the auction.

The F.C.C. scored a recent victory regarding the auction in that the National Association of Broadcasters (N.A.B.) had filed a lawsuit — since dismissed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. CircuitĀ — against the F.C.C. and its procedures for the auction. N.A.B. claimed that some of the F.C.C.’s decisions violated the Spectrum Act of 2012; its lawsuit caused a temporary stay on the auction. But the court’s ruling means that the auction will go ahead within the year. The F.C.C. will vote on T-Mobile’s proposed changes to the auction process next month, but in the meantime, more drama is bubbling.

There have been reports circulating for about a month indicating that T-Mobile wants to partner up with Dish Networks. Dish has been under fire since April for manipulating the last round of spectrum sales. The company bought 44% of the spectrum available through two small companies that it owns, thus claiming $3.3 billion in discounts that the F.C.C. applies to smaller bidders. The outcries after everyone else in the industry realized what Dish had pulled off clearly did not deter T-Mobile from talks to merge both companies’ assets.

Many items are up in the air: how the F.C.C. will choose to regulate the next, crucial spectrum auction; whether or not T-Mobile will strike a deal with Dish and thus take advantage of its tons of spectrum; and whether or not a T-Mobile deal with any major broadband provider will be approved and not considered anti-competitive. But one thing is for certain: Legere’s antics — and his bombastic public relations campaign to make T-Mobile seem like the good guy — will not let up any time soon.