US round-up: AT&T poaches AWS licences from Stelera; H block auction re-ignites; Softbank reiterates T-Mobile desire

13 Feb 2014

AT&T has requested approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the transfer of a number of AWS-1 licences from Oklahoma-based Stelera. The A block concessions cover 55 counties in nine Cellular Market Areas (CMA) across parts of Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. AT&T estimates that post-transaction it would hold a total of 56MHz to 180MHz of spectrum in the relevant CMAs, including 20MHz to 50MHz of AWS-1 spectrum. To date, 2014 has seen AT&T strike deals for AWS spectrum with both Aloha Partners and Cable ONE.

Meanwhile, the FCC’s auction of H-Block spectrum licences took an unexpected turn yesterday, RCR Wireless reports, as the number of bids shot through the roof after several days of slow progress. More than 200 new bids were cast across seven rounds of bidding, with USD44 million in potential winning bids added to the total, which now stands at USD1.356 billion. The licence covering North Platte (Nebraska/Colorado) is the sole concession currently lacking a valid bid. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the auction represents the regulator’s first major spectrum sale since 2008. The bidding process, which has been designated as ‘Auction 96’, comprises frequencies in the 1915MHz-1920MHz (Lower H block) and 1995MHz-2000MHz (Upper H block) bands. The FCC is not releasing the names of those entities holding the highest bids until after the auction concludes.

Finally, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son has reiterated his desire to merge his company’s US unit Sprint with smaller rival T-Mobile US, using the company’s quarterly earnings announcement to elaborate on his position. Bloomberg quotes him as saying: ‘Without industry consolidation, for Sprint alone to become number one in the US is literally just a dream. I’m not content for Sprint to remain number three … There is a huge gap between the bigger two and the smaller two, thus the level of competition isn’t sound or strong.’