AT&T and Sprint seek FCC consent to swap spectrum; AT&T linked with Qualcomm spectrum

26 Nov 2010

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) US cellcos AT&T Mobility and Sprint Nextel have filed documents seeking permission to exchange an assortment of 1.9GHz spectrum licences in a number of different markets. The move is designed to help each carrier enhance their existing services. The proposed swap requests permission for AT&T Mobility to provide Sprint Nextel with spectrum in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater, Florida; New Orleans; South Bend and Mishawaka, Indiana; Charlotte, Greensboro, and Greenville, North Carolina and Cleveland. In exchange, AT&T Mobility will receive Sprint spectrum covering parts of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; Denver; New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Des Moines and Quad Cities, Iowa; Honolulu; San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, California; Omaha, Nebraska; Louisville, Lexington and Evansville, Kentucky; Spokane and Billings, Washington; and Salt Lake City. The FCC document makes no mention of any financial considerations associated with the spectrum swap. Any parties interested in opposing the transaction must file petitions with the FCC by 7 December, with oppositions allowed before 17 December. The entire process is expected to be ready for final approval by 27 December.

In other news, AT&T is rumoured to be in talks with Qualcomm to buy spectrum belonging to its struggling ‘FLO TV’ service. According to unnamed sources interviewed by Business Week, Qualcomm has entered into discussions with several carriers – including AT&T – to purchase the block of 700MHz spectrum. However, it is known that Verizon and T-Mobile are definitely not among the interested parties. AT&T is reportedly interested in securing additional spectrum to help relieve capacity constraints as it prepares to launch Long Term Evolution (LTE) in 2011. Estimates suggest that the block of 700MHz spectrum could be sold for as much as USD1 billion; Qualcomm purchased the spectrum for USD683 million in federal auctions between 2003 and 2008. Bill Davidson, Qualcomm’s senior vice president of investor relations declined to confirm AT&T’s involvement in the negotiations, commenting: ‘We are in discussions with a variety of interested parties and are continuing to evaluate other options’.