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Sprint on incentive auction: Show us the rules first

Sprint is still not ready to commit to bidding in the broadcast incentive auction, even though it has been one of several smaller carriers pushing the Federal Communications Commission for a larger spectrum reserve.

The auction, planned tentatively for March 29, will be the last opportunity for carriers to acquire coveted low-band spectrum that has ideal propagation qualities for mobile services. AT&T, which plans to participate, and Verizon, which is hedging, combined have more than 70 percent of current low-band spectrum.

Sprint, T-Mobile and others would like to see the FCC increase the spectrum reserve from 30 to 40 MHz, an outcome that doesn’t seem likely given chairman Tom Wheeler’s recent public statements.

“We want to understand the rules before we proceed,” Marcelo Claure, president and CEO of Sprint said during the company’s quarterly earnings call Tuesday morning.

“It’s too early to make a comment [on the incentive auction]. Things are still unclear on the government side,” added Masayoshi Son, president and CEO of SoftBank.

Auction details should be a little clearer after this Thursday when the FCC holds a meeting to vote on critical auction items, including the auction procedures and the mobile spectrum holdings item that will set the reserve.

Son, who made a big play for T-Mobile only to abandon the pursuit after regulators frowned on the potential acquisition, was on hand during the call to bolster the company’s new turnaround strategy. “I don’t want to sell the company,” Son said. “I believe Sprint is going to be a very good company.”