T-Mobile’s Neville Ray implores Congress to reinstate FCC’s auction authority

T-Mobile’s President of Technology Neville Ray penned a blog today, imploring Congress to quickly renew the auction authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

In March Congress let the FCC’s authority to auction the nation’s spectrum expire.

Ray said, “Congress must act now to renew the FCC’s spectrum auction authority, which lapsed in March for the first time in 30 years. Without such authority, the FCC can’t auction licenses, and there’s no other practical way to bring more spectrum to market. That’s a massive competitive disadvantage for the United States and a disadvantage for American consumers. The U.S. needs a certain and reliable spectrum pipeline to meet Americans’ current and future needs.”

T-Mobile’s vested interest

In the normal course of business, T-Mobile might not be too concerned with the FCC’s auction authority problems. But FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has dragged T-Mobile into the issue.

Although the Seattle-based carrier paid $304 million for 7,156 licenses of 2.5 GHz spectrum in last summer’s auction, Rosenworcel now says the FCC cannot issue the licenses to T-Mobile until its auction authority is reinstated.

Fierce Wireless has speculated that Rosenworcel intentionally put T-Mobile in the middle of this issue because she wants help lobbying Congress to renew the FCC’s auction authority. And it looks like our speculation was on target, given Ray’s blog today.

“When T-Mobile bid on, won and paid over $300 million for licenses in the most recent FCC auction (Auction 108), we made plans to immediately put that spectrum to use for consumers,” wrote Ray. “But the FCC did not grant our licenses prior to the lapse of auction authority, and they’re now stuck in regulatory limbo.”

He said those 2.5 GHz licenses support wireless service in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Many of the licenses cover rural areas where the spectrum has been dormant and not serving any American citizens.

In order to try and move forward, T-Mobile recently filed an application for Special Temporary Authority (STA) to deploy its newly purchased 2.5 GHz spectrum.

“The FCC grants STAs to utilize spectrum when extraordinary circumstances exist,” wrote Ray. “We think that a once-in-a-generation lapse of auction authority is extraordinary — and that we have the chance to unlock extraordinary benefits for consumers.”

He said T-Mobile has built out the towers and radios needed to make use of this spectrum in many areas of the country. If it were given STAs right now, it could light up many of these markets in a matter of days.

In addition to writing a blog and filing an application for STAs, Ray said, “T-Mobile will continue pushing Congress to renew the FCC’s auction authority right away, so we hope this issue becomes moot.”

And that’s just the kind of help that Rosenworcel appreciates.