One of the newest players in the mobile phone space—Microsoft—is backing AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile, saying the combined firm will help expand the nationwide rollout of new broadband services.
“We see it as a step toward building out broadband capability and capacity,” Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said Tuesday during a briefing with reporters at the company’s new Washington, D.C., Innovation and Policy Center.
Critics of the deal, such as Sprint and smaller wireless carriers, say they worry that combining the second-biggest wireless carrier, AT&T, with No. 4 T-Mobile will harm competition and lead to higher prices for consumers.
Smith, however, said Microsoft believes there will still be “multiplatform” opportunities for competition even if the number of major national carriers is reduced from four to three. AT&T has said its merger with T-Mobile will help it accelerate its rollout of next-generation mobile services.
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While the Windows Phone platform still lags far behind Apple and Google in number of users, all four major wireless carriers will soon be offering versions of Microsoft’s mobile phone, Smith said.
Smith said Microsoft also supports proposals such as providing the Federal Communications Commission with legislative authority to conduct incentive auctions aimed at freeing up spectrum for mobile broadband technologies.
Such auctions are aimed at enticing current spectrum holders such as broadcasters to voluntarily give up their spectrum in exchange for a share in the proceeds from the auction of such airwaves.
At the same time, Smith urged Congress to ensure that in crafting legislation authorizing the FCC to conduct incentive auctions, it does not hinder the rollout of new technologies aimed at using white-space spectrum, which is the unlicensed spectrum between television channels.
“People at the FCC understand the need for licensed spectrum and unlicensed spectrum,” Smith said. “We want to make sure there is room for both.”
Following his briefing, Smith led reporters on a tour of Microsoft’s new high-tech Washington office, which he said will provide a convenient location to showcase to policymakers the technologies affected by the policies they make.