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FCC won’t give T-Mobile extra help against AT&T and Verizon in upcoming auction

The Federal Communications Commission voted today to deny T-Mobile's request for extra help in the upcoming spectrum auction. This is a hugely important auction for wireless carriers — it's their last chance to scoop up valuable spectrum for years, if not decades, to come — and T-Mobile has been pushing for the FCC to set aside a block of up to 40MHz or more that wealthy giants like AT&T and Verizon couldn't touch. The commission instead voted to keep the reserved block of spectrum capped at 30MHz. So while it may be a loss for T-Mobile, it's still a net win.

T-Mobile wanted more spectrum that the big carriers couldn't touch

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler explained the decision to keep the reserve at 30MHz earlier this summer. "The current reserve size of 30 MHz balances the desire to make low-band spectrum available to parties with limited holdings while facilitating competitive bidding for all auction participants," Wheeler wrote in a blog post.

The auction is supposed to begin early next year. It'll have all of the wireless giants bidding on spectrum within the 600MHz band, which is particularly valuable as far as spectrum goes. Because it's at such a low frequency, it's better at going through walls and traveling over long distances. That translates to a better network and cost savings for carriers, since they can send out a powerful signal without investing quite as much in cell towers. T-Mobile is certainly interested in buying up a chunk of it — it'll have to face more competition from AT&T and Verizon than it would like, but it should be able to grab something within that reserved 30MHz.