New FCC Spectrum Screen Would Count All of Sprint's Airwaves

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Sprint will soon become a much bigger holder of wireless airwaves in the eyes of US telecom regulators, a shift that could make it harder for the carrier to do spectrum deals while easing the process for its rivals.

The Federal Communications Commission said it plans to adjust the way it counts airwaves when setting the so-called spectrum screens that trigger additional scrutiny of mergers or spectrum deals.

The bulk of the spectrum being added to the screen -- 101 megahertz of the 128.5 megahertz in total -- is primarily controlled by Sprint and not currently counted.

The proposed change is expected to be voted on at the FCC's May 15 meeting. The FCC applies extra scrutiny to deals when a carrier owns more than a third of all available spectrum in a given market or when the deal would push it over that mark.

The new screens would cause Sprint, the country's third-largest carrier by subscribers, to hit or exceed the one-third threshold in most major markets. The new limits could benefit Verizon Communications, AT&T and T-Mobile US, because they would own a smaller percentage of the total. That would make it less likely they would trigger extra scrutiny when doing smaller spectrum deals.

New FCC Spectrum Screen Would Count All of Sprint's Airwaves