Communications Daily: Most Industry Comments Say Wireless Is Competitive; CCA Has Doubts

July 30, 2018

The FCC mostly heard from industry commenters who said the U.S. wireless market is effectively competitive, in comments on the new, biennial “Communications Marketplace Report.” That market “is vibrant, innovative, and highly competitive,” CTIA said. “Consumers today have unparalleled choice among wireless providers, services, plans, and devices.” Monthly data traffic per smartphone increased last year from 3.9 GB to 5.1 GB, CTIA said. Carriers invested some $25.6 billion in their networks in 2017, the group said. “4G LTE service is now available to at least 99.7 percent of Americans,” CTIA said. “That connectivity is enabled by the 323,448 cell sites. … The deployment of small cells, which helps satisfy consumers’ data demands and provides an important network densification precursor for 5G, is expected to see a skyrocketing increase of 550 percent in 2018.” Comments were due Thursday in docket 18-203 (see 1806260056). The Competitive Carriers Association again warned all is not well. “Increasing concentration of the wireless market between the two largest providers — AT&T and Verizon — combined with existing regulatory barriers to wireless market expansion negatively impact competitive entry and competitive expansion, particularly in rural and remote areas,” the group said.” CCA represents nearly 100 mobile carriers, yet by the end of 2017, AT&T and Verizon had 70 percent market share of wireless subscriptions, it said. Verizon and AT&T offered similar comments to those filed by CTIA. “The mobile wireless marketplace is constantly evolving with each ‘generation’ of wireless technology ushering in dramatic innovations for consumers that change not only the way they communicate but also how they go about their lives,” Verizon said. AT&T cited as evidence how each of the four major carriers offered unlimited plans, starting with its offer in 2016, and undercut each other on price. “Carriers have also continued to innovate to offer greater value at those lower prices,” AT&T said. “AT&T added HBO to its $90 offering, and now also includes a live television service called WatchTV. T-Mobile responded by adding Netflix and to its unlimited offerings, and Sprint added Hulu and TIDAL.” Mobile Future said competition among carriers “has predictably yielded higher connection speeds, broader network coverage and falling prices.”