AT&T Plans LTE Expansion Thanks to FCC Vote
AT&T plans to roll out an LTE network using WCS spectrum in three years, the carrier announced after the FCC unanimously voted to free up WCS spectrum for broadband use.The U.S Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Oct. 17 to free up 30MHz of Wireless Communication Services (WCS) spectrum for use with mobile broadband and specifically Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks. The vote is a win for AT&T and Sirius XM, which in June submitted a proposal outlining how, were it made available, they would use the WCS band. Because WCS has caused interference with satellite communications—including Sirius' radio offerings—it has essentially been an empty, untouchable lot in a market battling for real estate. AT&T's current LTE network is something of a mish-mash, reliant on cobbled-together portions of 700MHz and Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) licenses, as GigaOm's Kevin Fitchard has done a good job of explaining. The carrier decided that its one chance at a continuous swath of coverage would be to buy all the WCS holdings it could. In August it purchased WCS spectrum from NextWave, made arrangements to buy more from Comcast and Horizon Wi-Com and submitted its plan to the FCC. Fitchard writes that according to UBS Investment Research analyst John Hodulik, AT&T is also in talks with Sprint, which holds the last of the WCS licenses. With the FCC's stated approval, AT&T's purchases have paid off.
"AT&T took real risks to develop this underutilized band and is committed to devoting the resources necessary to unlock its full potential," Joan Marsh, AT&T vice president of Federal Regulatory said in an Oct. 17 post on the AT&T public policy blog. "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."