FCC Approves AT&T Purchase Of WCS Spectrum
December 19, 2012

FCC Gives Thumbs Up For AT&T To Acquire WCS Spectrum

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

In September of this year, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski brought AT&T one step closer to acquiring a nice, new chuck of WCS spectrum to use in their LTE rollout. The spectrum in question resides within a 20 MHz portion of the 2.3 GHz (or WCS) band.

At the time, the spectrum was reserved for satellite radio, used by companies such as Sirius and XM. Today, however, AT&T has finally received full approval from the FCC to use this spectrum as they expand their LTE offerings over the next few years.

Throughout the year, AT&T has been making deals as they prepared for this moment. In October, the FCC gave AT&T and Sirius approval to share some parts of this spectrum. These two companies had reached a compromise wherein they agreed to have guard bands placed in between the interfering spectrum.

A few months earlier, AT&T had also announced that they planned to buy NextWave Wireless in order to use their WCS and AWS spectrum.

Even during this announcement, AT&T noted that their future LTE plans would extend at least another 3 years, meaning that current AT&T users won´t notice any significant change anytime soon. Big Blue is also planning to use spectrum they´ve acquired from Comcast, Horizon Wi-Com and San Diego Gas & Electric Company.

This new spectrum will significantly boost AT&T coverage in the continental US, including 608 markets covering 82% of country. Specifically, AT&T will now make use of the 10-20 MHz WCS block A and B spectrum, the 5-10 MHz of WCS Block C and D spectrum, and the 10-30 MHz portion of AWS spectrum.

Currently, Ma Bell´s LTE lives in the 700 MHz spectrum. However, with today´s approval and the WCS licenses the FCC granted in October, the company can begin expanding their LTE network into the 2.3 GHz band.

"Repositioning the WCS band for LTE deployment is a significant accomplishment which will spur aggressive investment by AT&T and create good paying jobs across the wireless and technology eco-systems,” explained Joan Marsh, AT&T´s vice president of federal regulations in a company blog post.

"This is also a win for our customers, who will benefit from today's order for years to come as we realize the spectrum's full potential to enhance our wireless broadband offerings."

With each of these moves and presses for FCC approval, AT&T has been working to catch up with Verizon´s LTE rollout. In August, the FCC approved Verizon´s purchase of nearly 20 MHz of spectrum from a handful of cable companies such as Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner.

“The long era of dispute and uncertainty surrounding the WCS spectrum band is finally over,” exclaimed Ms. Marsh.

Now that they´ve been given the go-ahead, they´ll begin working to catch up with Verizon and possibly overtake them once their rollout is complete in nearly 3 years.