US regulator looks to increase competition in upcoming auction

23 April 2014 | Sophie Donoghue


US telecoms regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), may set aside a portion of 600MHz spectrum for smaller operators in a spectrum auction planned for 2015.

The FCC is expected to make a chunk of the low-bandwidth spectrum available for unlicenced services like Wifi.

"Opening up more spectrum for unlicenced use provides economic value for businesses and consumers alike," says Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC.

To prevent leading US operators, AT&T and Verizon, from outbidding Sprint and T-Mobile in the 2015 auction and increasing the market dominance, the FCC plans to put measures in place to limit the amount of spectrum they can acquire.

The auction is, according to Wheeler, a chance to offer more choice, lower prices and higher-quality services to more people, especially in rural areas.

"A legacy of earlier spectrum assignments… is that two national carriers control the vast majority of low-band spectrum," says Wheeler said. "As a result, rural consumers are denied the competition and choice that would be available if more wireless competitors also had access to low-band spectrum."

A draft report determining policy decisions related to the auction has been submitted to the FCC, and auction rules are expected to be officially proposed in May 15.