FCC Approves AT&T’s Purchase of 4G Spectrum From Qualcomm

News | Sunday December 18 2011 2:58 AM | Comments (0) Tags: , , , ,

AT&T’s long-held complaint about its lack of spectrum is about to end. The FCC just approved AT&T’s plan to purchase a portion of the 700 MHz spectrum from Qualcomm, along with fairly light regulations.
. AT&T cited concern about its lack of spectrum – a
of theirs and one of the major reasons they claimed they wanted to acquire T-Mobile.
It appears, however, that they’ve gotten a reprieve. The FCC re-examined AT&T’s purchase of Qualcomm’s spectrum on Thursday and approved it. The spectrum licenses cost $1.9 billion and were originally announced late last year, but they’ve been pending approval by the FCC. The purchase pertains to the 700 MHz block that was originally used by Qualcomm for their Flo TV service. MacNN reports that could be construed as a consolation prize for AT&T.
Many had expected the FCC to grant the deal as a consolation prize to AT&T, which abandoned its T-Mobile takeover after it was clear that it couldn’t make enough, if any, concessions to the Department of Justice or the FCC to overcome serious antitrust issues. The FCC hinted at approval for the Qualcomm terms when it let AT&T withdraw its merger application.
Perhaps the biggest news on the matter is that the terms of the agreement are very light. AT&T only has to protect against interference and allow tablets and phones from other networks to roam on their network. Others had anticipated more stringent terms.
In making the deal, the FCC has still frustrated rival carriers and advocacy groups. AT&T won a concession in not being required to make its 700MHz space work with that from Verizon or others. Phones could still be made to interoperate, but AT&T wouldn’t be required to offer support and could have devices that won’t let subscribers switch without paying for new equipment.
As MacNN mentions, however, LTE interoperation could still be decided upon independently of these terms in 2012, when the FCC is planning on looking at LTE compatibility more closely.
AT&T just recently expanded their LTE network to NYC and plans on launching more areas in the near future. They still have a way to go to catch up with Verizon, which launched its 4G LTE network last December.
For its part, Apple has held off on releasing an LTE iPhone , preferring instead to let the carriers first get their infrastructure in place. CEO Tim Cook said in April that the first generation of LTE chipsets had required “a lot of design compromises” that the company wasn’t willing to make.
Now, however, the situation looks to be changing. AT&T has already launched a few 4G devices, and they can really expand their 4G network using this newly acquired spectrum. Verizon’s 4G network also is coming along, and
network next year as well. This trend definitely points out that it’s possible that an
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