Cell-phone providers like AT&T and T-Mobile will have to wait a bit longer to get access to the powerful frequencies they say they need to keep their networks from slowing down.
The Federal Communications Commission admitted Friday that it will have to postpone an auction of airwave licenses from mid-2015 until early 2016.
The agency said the delay is thanks to a lawsuit from broadcast TV stations, who are trying to force the FCC to rework the details of the auction.
In a blog post, Gary Epstein, the head of the FCC's auction task force, said he's confident the agency will beat the TV stations in court. But the court decision might not come until the middle of next year. Given the complexity of the auction and the need for companies to know the rules well in advance, the agency won't be able to meet its original timeline, he explained.
"Despite this brief delay, we remain focused on the path to successfully implementing the incentive auction," he wrote.
The decision is a blow to the cell-phone carriers, who are clamoring for access to more airwaves as soon as possible. The increasing popularity of streaming videos and browsing the Web on mobile devices is straining the capacity of the wireless networks. The cell-phone carriers warn that consumers could soon face more dropped calls and grainy videos unless the government provides them with more airwaves.