This spectrum crunch thing may be about to get ugly quickly. T-Mobile USA, fresh off the death of the planned merger with AT&T, is looking more aggressive every day.
According to the company’s 2011 annual report, they are actually planning to launch LTE services in 2013 starting with the spectrum they got as part of the breakup of the merger. There has been substantial speculation about their plans, not the least of which is that they don’t have enough spectrum to compete. Honestly, these plans surely aren’t set in stone. They have to make the plans to stay in the game, but it seems more likely that there are additional cards yet to play.
Meanwhile, T-Mobile USA has asked the FCC to deny Verizon’s proposed purchase of all that AWS spectrum they’re trying to buy from the cable companies. The reason is obviously that there isn’t enough to go around, and letting Verizon have too much will make the palying field permanently unfair. I doubt they succeed on this front, but as a chess move it makes sense anyway. What this really does is declare T-Mobile USA’s intent to seek more spectrum – whether via more consolidation or not and to leave its year of passivity behind it.
So now we have Sprint actively building out LTE, Dish trying to get approval to build LTE, T-Mobile plotting a buildout of LTE for 2013, Clearwire alread getting started with its LTE overbuild, and LightSquared still trying to peel itself off the asphalt. There’s obviously got to be some room for some more cooperation here. I think we see T-Mobile USA team up somehow with either DISH or Clearwire before the end of the year.