Verizon's spectrum slam dunk over AT&T

Talk about ironic: AT&T got slammed by the FCC for its $39 billion bid to buy T-Mobile USA (and its spectrum) in recent days. Then on Friday, Verizon Wireless said it is buying wireless spectrum from three cable companies for $3.6 billion.

Given recent history, the FCC seems fairly likely to approve the Verizon deal, which involves 122 Advanced Wireless Services licenses being purchased from SpectrumCo, a joint venture of Comcast, Tim Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Verizon said those licenses will serve 259 million people in the U.S.

So far, none of the critics of the big AT&T merger with T-Mobile have stepped forward to condemn the cable spectrum deal with Verizon as anti-competitive or likely to eliminate jobs as they did with AT&T.

One has to wonder why AT&T didn't act to acquire cable spectrum, and whether AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson might be hiding out at a local coffee shop.  Various sports metaphors come to mind: Verizon's end run ... Hail Mary ... slam dunk ... yada yada.

"I'll bet AT&T wishes they could have got their hands on this spectrum," independent analyst Jeff Kagan said.  "That would have solved their problem, but they are taking a different path by trying to acquire T-Mobile."

It's not clear to me how much AT&T could have benefited long-term by getting the cable spectrum that Verizon seems to have won. The impact now is important, but getting more spectrum is always going to be an issue for carriers.  

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