US mobile operators Verizon Wireless and Leap Wireless have requested permission from telecoms regulator the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct a significant exchange of spectrum, with a view to bolstering Long Term Evolution (LTE) in selected areas of the country. According to Fierce Wireless, if approved, Leap will receive a 12MHz ‘A block’ licence in the 700MHz spectrum band covering Chicago; Verizon paid USD152 million for the block during the FCC’s 700MHz auction in 2008. Leap currently owns 10MHz of spectrum in Chicago, and will use the additional spectrum to launch LTE service in the Windy City; Verizon currently offers LTE services in Chicago using its 700MHz ‘C Block’ spectrum. Verizon, meanwhile, will acquire 23 PCS licences and 13 AWS-1 concessions belonging to Leap, covering a number of locations across the country. Verizon is seeking to bolster its CDMA EV-DO and LTE networks using the spectrum. The licences to be acquired by Verizon cover approximately 18.7 million people, whilst the Chicago licence Leap is interested in covers a population area of approximately eleven million.
With reference to its wholly-owned wireless subsidiary, Cricket, Leap wrote in its FCC filing: ‘The additional spectrum will enable Cricket to deploy LTE technology and thereby expand its service offerings, strengthen its presence, and improve the quality of services available to consumers in Chicago. With carriers worldwide upgrading to faster and more efficient LTE technology, Cricket’s deployment of this technology is critical to its ability to deliver competitive services to customers in the coming years’. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, last month Leap confirmed plans to launch an LTE trial market in Tucson, Arizona before the end of 2011, adding that it hopes to cover a total of 25 million people with LTE by the end of 2012 in a USD250 million rollout. With no additional coverage details provided, Leap’s FCC filing offers the first glimpse at its future rollout plans.