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Sprint will not participate in 2016 airwaves sale

Sprint will not participate in a major auction next year of wireless spectrum, the frequencies that carry signals to and from mobile phones. 
 
The company said this weekend that it would focus instead on building up its infrastructure.
 
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"Sprint’s focus and overarching imperative must be on improving its network and market position in the immediate term so we can remain a powerful force in fostering competition, consumer benefits and innovation in the wireless broadband world,” said CEO Marcelo Claure in a statement issued Saturday.
 
Next year's auction, scheduled for March, will use a never-before-tried mechanic. First, the Federal Communications Commission will buy spectrum from television stations; then the agency will repackage it and sell it to wireless carriers.
 
Participation on both sides of the auction is key to its success. Spectrum is valuable, and the sale could bring in billions for the government. But it remains to be seen how many companies will come to the table.
 
While other carriers have yet to commit to participating, a Verizon executive has said that it does not have a "great need" for the type of spectrum that will be sold in the auction.
 
21st Century Fox, which owns several television stations in major markets, has said it will participate.
 
Sprint's announcement also means that T-Mobile will have one less competitor for a block of spectrum set aside for smaller carriers. Earlier this year, both companies were part of a coalition advocating for a larger reserve for small companies — but the FCC rebuffed their request this summer.