FCC Releases 17th Mobile Wireless Competition Report

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The FCC has released its highly anticipated Seventeenth Report on the state of competition in the mobile wireless services marketplace.  This year’s report covers all of 2013 and the first half of 2014.  Consistent with the Commission’s Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Sixteenth Reports, in this most recent report, the Commission “does not reach an overall conclusion or formal finding regarding whether or not the CMRS marketplace was effectively competitive, but provides an analysis and description of the CMRS industry’s competitive metrics and trends.”  Specifically, the Commission analyzes the overall dynamics of the mobile wireless industry (including the various types of entities and their respective market share), subscribership growth, adoption and deployment of technologies, consumer usage trends, key inputs such as spectrum resources and network infrastructure, developments on service pricing and marketing, differences between pre-paid and post-paid market segments, competitive rivalry in non-price factors such as coverage, service quality and data speed offerings, and FCC policies and actions promoting competition (including the release of new spectrum, revised policies of transaction review processes and the spectrum screen).  Among the findings in the Seventeenth Report are the following:  (1) the country’s Big 4 nationwide carriers collectively serve over 350 million devices (more than 95% market share), regional carriers serve 5.3 million devices (approximately 4.7% market share) and small and rural carriers have a market share below 1.0%; (2) the percentage of rural consumers who live in a market with at least five providers has continued to decrease since December 2012; (3) the percentage of rural consumers (defined as markets with no more than 100 persons per square mile) served by the Big 4 nationwide carriers are 91.2% (Verizon), 89.1% (AT&T), 65.9% (T-Mobile) and 57.8% (Sprint); and (4) according to an NTCA study cited by the FCC, 68% of the rural providers who were surveyed described the process of obtaining financing for their wireless projects as “fairly difficult” or “very difficult” while another 13% found the process “virtually impossible”.  A copy of the Commission’s Seventeenth Report can be found on the FCC’s public website.

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