AT&T May Sit Out 2015 Spectrum Auction Over Rules Dustup

AT&T is not happy with the rules the FCC has proposed for a 2015 spectrum auction that would reserve a piece of the airwaves for sale for smaller providers that lack low-frequency range. The second-largest wireless company in the U.S. is not enthused with that.

“If the restrictions as proposed are adopted, AT&T will need to seriously consider whether its capital and resources are directed toward other spectrum opportunities that will better enable AT&T to continue to support high-quality LTE network deployments to serve its customers,” said Joan Marsh, the company’s vice president in charge of regulation.

In other words, AT&T may take its ball and go home.

The FCC wants to reserve up to 30 MHz of spectrum in different markets for smaller providers, spectrum that AT&T and Verizon, the market incumbents, would be precluded from bidding on.

In AT&T’s view, “a 10×10 MHz allocation is necessary to achieve minimal economic and technical efficiencies in an LTE deployment.” So, according to the wireless company, you can’t cut spectrum into smaller chunks for what it needs than that. As such, the situation is as follows, according to the company:

In short, in all band plans less than 70 MHz, restricted bidders – specifically AT&T and Verizon (and in a small number of markets, potentially US Cellular or CSpire) — would be limited to bidding for only 3 blocks. And in each market where the restrictions attach to at least two carriers, at most only one restricted carrier could emerge from the auction with a 10×10 MHz allocation.

In an auction involving more than 70 MHz, those issues would be lessened.

Wireless providers are hungry for spectrum due to the increasing load of smartphones and other data-hungry mobile devices. If you were looking for a signal of the future of technology, watching wireless firms squabble about spectrum purchases from television broadcasters so that they can provide better support for their wireless capabilities is a pretty good indication of where we’re headed.

TechCrunch has reached out to the FCC for comment on the spectrum auction, AT&T’s potential exit from it, and whether that move could endanger the auction itself.