AT&T might be a far second to Verizon in U.S. 4G LTE coverage, but that’s not stopping it from continuing its aggressive expansion plans. Part of the plan is to create a nationwide 4G band using 20MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz wireless communications services band for the LTE network.
Now the FCC has all-but granted AT&T’s request. It isn’t official yet, but it seems more than likely that AT&T will get the approval it needs. An FCC spokesperson said about the move:
“Today’s action is part of Chairman Julius Genachowski’s continued efforts to remove regulatory barriers that limit the flexible use of spectrum, which is one way he has led the Commission toward helping address the continued ‘spectrum crunch.’ By unleashing 20 megahertz of spectrum now—and up to 30 megahertz in the future—the Chairman continues to leave no stone unturned when it comes to maximizing opportunities to refill the mobile spectrum pipeline that had begun to run dry over the last decade. In addition to removing regulatory barriers, the Commission continues to push ahead on innovative spectrum solutions in addition to traditional auctions, including incentive auctions, government-commercial sharing, technology-based opportunities like small cells, and freeing up unlicensed spectrum for innovations like Wi-Fi.”
Is it surprising to hear that the FCC plans to let AT&T make use of the band? Not really, especially considering the WCS has always been intended for wireless broadband services. The major issue that could have potentially have held this move back is that a high-powered broadband network could cause interface with Sirius XM’s radio signals. In order to get around this, AT&T and Sirius plan to compromise by turning 10MHz of that spectrum into a guard band that will ensure that the AT&T 4G network doesn’t interfere with Sirius’ radio service.
Unsurprisingly, not every organization out there is happy about AT&T securing the band. In order to make its plans work, AT&T has been buying up large chunks of the WCS spectrum. The Competitive Carrier Association is one of the parties that feels it is unwise to allow large carriers to obtain such massive amounts of spectrum. They argue that giving in to AT&T’s plans to buy up so much spectrum will make it nearly impossible for small carriers to compete. What do you think? Should the FCC grant the request or not?