T-Mobile to auction off spectrum that cash stapped Dish can’t buy

Back in October, the two companies got together and for the price of $100 million, T-Mobile agreed to extend the option to April 1st, 2024. Not only won’t Dish make that deadline, it paid $100 million that it could sorely use right now and got nothing in return. According to T-Mobile CFO Peter Osvaldik, if Dish doesn’t exercise the option to buy the 800MHz spectrum on April 1st, and it already has said that it won’t, T-Mobile will have to put the airwaves up for auction.
Osvaldik said, “We haven’t commenced that auction yet, but should they choose not to exercise it, that’ll be the next step for us.” T-Mobile will have to hold such an auction by this fall and it will be up to the FCC to decide who can participate in the bidding. Both AT&T and Verizon would naturally have an interest in the spectrum because it is right next to spectrum that they already own. But there is an issue that prevents the two majors from buying the airwaves.
As part of the agreement made by the government allowing T-Mobile to buy Sprint, T-Mobile is not allowed to sell these airwaves to any other national facilities-based mobile wireless network operator unless it gets prior approval to do so by the government.

Fierce Wireless says that other firms might be interested in the spectrum including the Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company which could use the spectrum to provide wireless service for electric utilities. Another firm, Anterix, was launched by the people who founded Nextel and is looking to sell private LTE wireless service to utilities.

If Dish, as expected, fails to exercise the option to buy the 800MHz spectrum, T-Mobile will be the auctioneer which is a role that the FCC usually plays.

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