T-Mobile has issued an FCC filing opposing Verizon's plans to purchase additional spectrum licenses in the AWS band from cable companies, saying that Verizon is mainly doing this to keep the licenses away from smaller companies such as itself. T-Mobile also said that it would use the additional spectrum "more quickly, more intensively, and more efficiently than Verizon Wireless" — a statement that Verizon seems to have some issues with.
In a post on Verizon's policy blog, Charla Rath, VP of wireless policy development, explained that Verizon is actually twice as efficient with its spectrum than T-Mobile. According to Rath, while Verizon serves 109 million customer connections with an average of 88 MHz, T-Mobile's 33 million connections are served with just 50 MHz, which means that Verizon serves 1.2 million customers per megahertz compared to 660,000 for T-Mobile.
Rath goes on to say that the real issue isn't efficiency, but the lack of spectrum currently available, writing "I'm sure T-Mobile would agree with that." That line, perhaps, is the most biting of the entire commentary because of the very different positions the two carriers currently have over a debate to limit the FCC's authority to restrict participation in spectrum auctions: Sprint and T-Mobile both want the FCC to be able to continue to lock out dominant players like AT&T and Verizon from buying additional spectrum (some of which should come to market this year via incentive auctions for television broadcasters), while the top two players clearly don't want to be locked out.
It's a battle that goes to the heart of the supposed "spectrum crunch" we're facing — just how badly both AT&T and Verizon are really hurting for bandwidth in light of the licenses that are already in their possession — versus the needs of the smaller carriers. T-Mobile has said this week in announcing its LTE strategy that it'll need additional spectrum for a "broader" and "deeper" 4G build-out, and there's no question it'll be able to better afford that spectrum if it isn't competing against the big guys.