AT&T-Sirius Compromise Approved
October 17, 2012

FCC Approves AT&T And Sirius Compromise To Share The Airwaves

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

For years, AT&T has had spectrum set aside which was found to interfere with Sirius XM Radio´s spectrum. The Federal Communications Commission has spent nearly 15 years blocking AT&T from using up some of the spectrum it´s been buying up to expand its network. Today, the FCC has approved a compromise proposal submitted to the agency in June by both AT&T and Sirius XM Radio which places guard bands in between the interfering spectrum. With this proposal approved, AT&T can now begin to use the spectrum it´s been collecting over the years to support their 4G LTE rollout.

The FCC unanimously approved this plan which should protect both entities as the battle for airspace and spectrum wages on. As an extension of this deal, AT&T will also be allowed to use some of their WCS spectrum licensees as well. The plan both companies submitted in June proposes AT&T take the 20 and 30 MHz bands, leaving the rest free so as not to interfere with Sirius XM´s bands.

As AT&T´s subscriber base grows, and as the public´s hunger for more data goes unchecked, the need for more spectrum increases. As such, AT&T has been buying up as much spectrum as they could whenever they could for several years. With the FCC´s approval, AT&T will have to give up half of the spectrum it had in the lower “guard” bands, but the company is likely willing to let some of this spectrum go in order to move forward and continue expanding their network.

The FCC decision was broadcast today via webcast. Afterwards, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski gave a press conference explaining the FCC´s decision concerning this spectrum deal. In this press conference, Genachowski said the FCC had asked the two companies to come up with their own solution to the interfering spectrum problem, rather than ask the agency to fix it for them.

"This is a very proactive commission," said Genachowski.

"When we see problems, we go out and fix them. And the team did a tremendous job in the work leading up to today's order."

Both AT&T and Sirius XM Radio had a chance to test this solution before its approval today and said that all worked according to plan.

Now that AT&T has the go ahead from the FCC, they´re ready to begin putting all their spectrum to good use.

In a blog post today, AT&T vice president of federal regulatory, Joan Marsh, expressed her company´s excitement in response to this decision.

"The era of regulatory dispute and uncertainty in the WCS band is finally drawing to a close," writes Marsh.

"Today, in a unanimous vote, the FCC approved an order adopting the joint proposal filed by AT&T and Sirius XM designed to bridge long-standing differences in the band to reach mutually-acceptable solutions and to position the WCS band for mobile broadband deployment."

AT&T will be able to use all of this spectrum to roll out their LTE service in about 3 years, according to Marsh.

“AT&T took real risks to develop this under-utilized band and is committed to devoting the resources necessary to unlock its full potential. We expect to commence deployment of LTE infrastructure in the band in as early as three years, allowing us to enhance our wireless broadband services.”