U.S. Cellular Eyes FCC for Cues on Upcoming Auctions
How the FCC manages the upcoming 600 MHz incentive auctions is on everyone’s mind, including LeRoy Carlson, CEO of Telephone and Data Systems (TDS).
Carlson on Monday said TDS, which owns regional wireless carrier U.S. Cellular, is interested in bidding in the upcoming AWS-3 auction, as well as the 600 MHz incentive auction in 2015. But Carlson also said a smaller operator like U.S. Cellular has concerns that are unique to its size.
“We are very concerned that the FCC will make sure that there are two things that happen. Interoperability among all the AWS-3 bands that will be offered and interoperability among all the incentive auctions bands, those 600 bands,” Carlson said. “And then also small license area sizes. For a company like us, who is a regional company, we need to have license area sizes that will enable us to compete to overlay our existing footprint without having to buy licenses that extend far beyond our footprint size.”
Carlson also clarified comments made by U.S. Cellular President and CEO Ken Meyers. During its most recent earnings call, Meyers had said his company would be interested in participating in the upcoming H Block auction. However, Carlson said that was a misstatement. TDS did not actually apply to participate in the H Block auction.
Carlson said it wasn’t clear that that there would to an interoperability standard applied to the H Block.
“If Sprint had gone into the auction and bought it, it would have been connected to Sprint's PCS spectrum and would have been made interoperable in a larger PCS bandwidth most likely,” Carlson said. “But we would have to have depended on Sprint to do that, There was no rule around it.”
Possible interference with Dish’s nearby spectrum was also a concern. “So when you have uncertainty, you are less likely to be willing to bid for something like that. So we passed on that one,” Carlson said.
During his talk, Carlson also touched on a the massive issues his company has experienced while implementing a new billing system.
"The number of defects that we have identified in this system, a new system like this that touches all of our existing systems, is going to come with defects at the beginning,” Carlson said. “And the number of defects is also coming down. But there is still over 100 to 200, what we call severity level 2 defects, not 1 because most of the 1s are done, but severity level 2 that need to be fixed because they are affecting some customers. And it will take, while we would like to get those done, all done by year end, some of those will probably drag over into the first quarter of next year.”