AT&T’s pending attempt to acquire Leap Wireless gained a new foe as the recently re-branded Rural Wireless Association said it has filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission asking that a “reasonable” spectrum cap be considered before moving forward on the deal.
“If the proposed transaction is allowed to proceed, RWA argues that AT&T not be allowed to hold more than 25% of the suitable and available spectrum in any given county post transaction,” RWA noted in a statement. “RWA believes that the commission should review this proposed takeover through the prism of a spectrum aggregation rule that supports at least four equally healthy competitors per market and that any spectrum held by AT&T exceeding this amount should be divested or leased to another operator.”
The Leap deal will see AT&T acquire 1.9 GHz and 1.7/2.1 GHz spectrum licenses covering approximately 137 million potential customers, with plans to retain the Leap brand and integrate Leap’s approximately five million customers.
RWA, which earlier this month re-branded from its previous Rural Telecommunications Group name, added that if the FCC does not impose a spectrum aggregation limit on AT&T, it should require the carrier to provide data roaming at rates similar to what it charges its mobile virtual network operator partners; offer AT&T customers devices that are interoperable in “all paired spectrum bands;” and allow devices to be unlocked and compatible with the networks of tier-two and tier-three carriers using the same technology.
A number of rural wireless advocates have been calling on the FCC to cast a more critical eye on AT&T and Verizon Wireless’ spectrum portfolios below the 1 GHz band, noting the two operators currently control 80% of the licenses below that threshold. This argument has become more vocal as the FCC looks to set up rules for the upcoming 600 MHz incentive auction.
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