July Mobile Cell Auction May Open to Big Carriers

BOSTON (06/02/2000) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has decided size does matter in terms of the ability to deliver cellular telephone service and has "tentatively" decided to let the big carriers, such as New York-based Verizon Wireless or Sprint PCS, Kansas City, bid in a July 26 auction for spectrum space once earmarked exclusively for small players.

FCC Chairman William Kennard said he endorsed a plan to open up the July 26 auction in the 700-Mhz band because of the bandwidth demands of wireless data services. Kennard said that in his view, "the Internet is quickly migrating out of the PC and into a vast array of inexpensive handheld devices.... (The July auction) is vitally important because it will pump previously fallow spectrum into the marketplace to promote this migration."

Kennard said the FCC plans for the July auction "are carefully balanced to maximize the opportunity for both large and small enterprises."

The Personal Communications Industry Association, which represents small cellular carriers, said that it welcomed the FCC's decision to seek public comment on its plans to widen the bidding field for the July auction, "although we do not believe any changes in the rules are necessary." PCIA also said it believes the FCC needs to delay the planned July auction due to the limited time available to review public comments between now and the auction date.

Alan Reiter, an analysts with Wireless Internet+Mobile Computing in Chevy Chase, Maryland., said size does matter in the ability to provide advanced mobile services, with a couple of caveats. "You need to be able to combine size with innovative services and pricing." He added that despite the size and reach of the major U.S. carriers, the U.S. still lags behind the United Kingdom in both pricing and service.

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