AT&T Admits the 'Spectrum Crunch' Argument it Made Wasn't True
You may recall that back when AT&T was trying to buy T-Mobile, a big part of the argument was a spectrum crunch around its wireless efforts. The company insisted -- strenuously -- that it would not be able to expand 4G LTE services to more than 80% of the population unless it had T-Mobile. That argument ran into some trouble when a lawyer accidentally posted some documents to the FCC which admitted that the company could fairly easily expand its coverage to 97% of the population of the US without T-Mobile (and, in fact, that it would cost about 10% of what buying T-Mobile would cost). Suddenly, the argument that it absolutely needed T-Mobile rang hollow -- even as the company continued to insist exactly that. Still, the FCC suddenly was skeptical and AT&T, seeing the writing on the wall, gave up on the merger.
So, it probably shouldn't have been seen as much of a surprise that just 11 months after the T-Mobile deal fell through, AT&T has announced plans to expand its LTE footprint to cover 97% of the population of the US. In other words, the internal document was exactly correct, and AT&T's public claims? Hogwash.
Even the mainstream news media is now mocking AT&T's obviously bogus claims during the merger fight. AT&T's response to this is to claim that it "chartered a new direction," doing something like 40 new deals for spectrum. However, as Broadband Reports notes, all of this seems to make clear that there is no spectrum crunch -- that's just a bogeyman story that the telcos tell the government when they want a handout. In fact, AT&T is now saying publicly that there is no spectrum crunch. It has more than enough.
Speaking to analysts, AT&T's chief strategy officer John Stankey yesterday acknowledged the company is now well-positioned on the spectrum front -- even before the company starts moving on their new plan to use WCS spectrum for LTE deployment.
"Even under ideal circumstances, getting new spectrum on the market in the next five to seven years is aggressive," Stankey said. "But what we do know is that AT&T is well-positioned now...These deals give us confidence that we can meet our LTE objectives for next two years and they will allow us to deliver competitive performance."
Of course, I'm sure the next time AT&T needs something from the government, or wants to wipe a competitor off the map, we'll be right back to that story about how they're in desperate need of spectrum.
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