Planned Verizon spectrum sale raises questions


VerizonTelecom giant Verizon holds 700 MHz spectrum in the A, B and C blocks. If its proposed acquisition of AWS spectrum from a coalition of cable companies goes through, it will pair it with its C block holdings and put its A and B holdings up for sale. Both the NAB and the CWA are meeting the announcement with raised eyebrows.

The AWS acquisition would involve spectrum holdings of SpectrumCo, comprised of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks, as well as other proposed acquisitions from Cox and Leap Wireless. The deals are under review by the FCC and have attracted a certain amount of opposition.

Verizon will not sell its holdings in A and B unless its other deals go through. Nevertheless, it has begun its search for potential buyers.

“Since wireless operators, large and small, have expressed concern about the availability of high-quality spectrum, we believe our 700 MHz licenses will be attractive to a wide range of buyers,” said Molly Feldman, vice president of Business Development for Verizon Wireless. “Moreover, provided our acquisition of AWS spectrum is approved, our open sale process will ensure these A and B spectrum licenses are quickly and fairly made available for the benefit of other carriers and their customers.”

NAB’s Dennis Wharton commented, “Today’s proposal by Verizon to sell reallocated broadcast TV spectrum involves airwaves in the largest urban markets in America that it purchased more than four years ago. The fact that it has warehoused this ‘beachfront property’ raises the fundamental question of whether a spectrum shortage actually exists. Rather than simply take at face value the specious claims of wireless broadband providers, policymakers should heed the words of Martin Cooper, the inventor of the cellphone, who disputes the notion of a spectrum crisis.”

Wharton was referring to comments Cooper made in a New York Times story on spectrum. Cooper noted that for the past 100 years, spectrum issues have been solved with improved technology and suggested the current spectrum crunch wouldn’t be any different. He said that it is not unreasonable to expect service for 10 mobile devices via the same spectrum it takes to serve but one at the moment.

Communications Workers of America are strongly against the earlier deal with SpectrumCo, in large part because it includes plans for the buyer and sellers in that deal to form a joint venture to cross-market one another. It believes it will be anti-competitive, and will lead to higher prices, diminished service and lost jobs. It said the current announcement may be to take off some political pressure, and added that it does nothing to diminish CWA’s existing concerns. Nevertheless, it promised to look carefully at the current announcement to assess its ultimate impact on consumers and workers.

Here are the areas covered by Verizon’s sale proposal:

Following is a list of the markets covered by the 700 MHz A and B licenses:
A Block Licenses (Economic Areas)
New York, Philadelphia, Washington-Baltimore, Orlando, Miami, Tampa, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio (CMA area only), Denver, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Francisco and Sacramento

B Block (Cellular Market Areas)
Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Cincinnati, Rochester, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Greensboro-Winston Salem, Charlotte, Youngstown, Raleigh-Durham, West Palm Beach, Fort Collins, Pueblo and Colorado 4 – Park; Bradenton and Florida 3- Hardee; Athens, GA; Idaho 5 – Butte; Lake Charles, Alexandria, Louisiana 1- Claiborne, Louisiana 2 – Morehouse and Louisiana 3 – De Soto; Maryland 3 – Frederick; Billings, Great Falls, Montana 8 – Beaverhead, and Montana 9 – Carbon; Nevada 3 – Storey; New Mexico 5 – Grant and New Mexico 6 – Lincoln; Rapid City and South Dakota 1 – Harding; Lubbock, Amarillo, Waco, Longview-Marshall, Tyler, Texarkana, Odessa, Laredo, Midland, Texas 2 – Hansford, Texas 6 – Jack and Texas 18 – Edwards; Utah 1 – Box Elder, Utah 4 – Beaver, Utah 5 – Daggett and Utah 6 – Piute; Virginia 10 – rederick; Washington 2 – Okanogan; Casper and Wyoming 2 – Sheridan