Verizon Claims the Spectrum Edge

Verizon (NYS: VZ) sees itself as sitting on enough of that invaluable -- and finite -- mobile resource called wireless spectrum that it's set for the next four to five years. That's what Verizon's CFO, Fran Shammo, told an audience at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference.

Verizon's spectrum vault swelled as a result of a blockbuster deal it made late last year with several cable companies. The carrier paid $3.9 billion for a cache of unused spectrum held by Comcast (NYS: CMCSA) , Time Warner Cable (NYS: TWC) , Bright House Networks, and Cox Communications.

That deal, which was finally approved last month by the Federal Communications Commission -- though not before it had to address some sticky anticompetitive issues -- was "an absolute strategic acquisition for us," said Shammo.

And it was a kick in the teeth for Verizon's competitors. Acquiring wireless spectrum is a zero-sum game. For every winner, there is a loser. Verizon's grab of 122 Advanced Wireless Services spectrum licenses with the potential to cover 259 million people took that spectrum off the table for rivals AT&T (NYS: T) , Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) , and the rest.

On the spectrum horizon
Even though Verizon is feeling pretty comfortable sitting on its spectrum cushion for the next several years, that doesn't mean it's not hungry for more. The FCC is planning on auctioning off a range of frequencies that was previously reserved for broadcasters but will be made available to wireless carriers to bid on in 2014. You can bet Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, et al, will be fighting for what they feel are their fair shares.

Speaking of fair shares, AT&T's CEO, Randall Stephenson, at the same Goldman Sachs conference, said he "applauded" the FCC's plan to explore at an upcoming meeting means to more equitably parcel out spectrum by using a so-called spectrum-screen. If the screening criteria show a carrier having too much spectrum, then its chances of being allowed to get more will be diminished.

Stephenson must be counting on the FCC looking askance at the size of Verizon's spectrum vault when it comes around asking for more.

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Fool contributor Dan Radovsky owns shares of AT&T. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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