The war for 5G supremacy in the US wireless industry has been pretty ugly and confusing right from the start, but even though John Legere no longer has any interest in constantly teasing and deriding T-Mobile’s competition and AT&T has had to drop its advertising shenanigans, the fight for first place recently took a surprising turn.
Acknowledging the “Un-carrier’s” ideal position for incredible customer growth after Sprint’s disappearance, Verizon and AT&T formed an unlikely alliance against the nation’s second-largest mobile network operator, arguing that T-Mobile has been allowed to amass an excessive and unfair amount of low and mid-band 5G spectrum of late.
While the two cellular giants merely asked the FCC to block a fairly routine lease transaction, many pundits and analysts expect a second and much more important request to follow in the near future.
But Magenta is not taking this coordinated attack lying down, putting its finger on the industry’s upcoming “main event” by highlighting that its participation in a major C-band auction kicking off in December would greatly benefit the market as a whole and even “American taxpayers.”
“Extremely high stakes” and no reason to exclude T-Mobile
This graph neatly summarizes T-Mobile’s huge advantage over the competition in low and mid-band resources
No longer viewed simply as an ambitious industry underdog and potential disruptor, T-Mobile is admired by experts and feared by rivals for its prodigious recent network development efforts and towering infrastructural resources. Obviously, that’s no reason to bar Magenta from bidding for the “largest pool of new spectrum expected any time in the near future.”
According to Sievert, the results of the aforementioned C-band auction will “shape market competition and network advancement in the US for years to come”, and the only way to run a “fair, competitive process” allowing all players to compete for “spectrum essential for consumers” is naturally to let every single major industry force play the game freely.
Although it is true that T-Mobile already owns more low and mid-band 5G spectrum than Verizon and AT&T combined, a lead that could be widened in the super-high-stakes looming auction, Big Red has a similarly substantial advantage in the high-band arena that makes its argument against Magenta invalid and hypocritical.
Sievert is also essentially admitting that his company aims to force its rivals to overspend on mid-band 5G spectrum they badly need at this point, turning one of Verizon and AT&T’s key arguments against them by emphasizing such a behavior would almost certainly improve the auction’s proceeds.
Here’s the hilarious part of Verizon and AT&T’s complaints
While we’ve already established this latest war of words between the top three wireless carriers stateside is about something greater than a relatively small block of 600 MHz spectrum T-Mobile recently leased from Columbia Capital for three years, it feels important (not to mention ironic) to highlight a couple of directly connected details.
Verizon could have offered the same 5G coverage as T-Mobile using low-band spectrum
Secondly and most amusingly, it seems that AT&T initially won this very piece of spectrum at a previous auction, seeing no benefit into putting the technology to use and instead deciding to discard it to Columbia Capital. For its part, Verizon never showed much interested in deploying a low-band 5G network of its own, putting all its eggs into the millimeter wave basket.