Chicago-based mobile operator US Cellular has filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to buy several 700MHz spectrum licences from Actel. The projected deal includes seven concessions in the Lower A Block of the 700MHz band, and covers 35 Cellular Market Areas (CMAs) in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin. ‘The additional spectrum will allow [US Cellular] to offer innovative services and improve its voice and data offerings to the public’, the company stated in its regulatory filing. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, US Cellular has already utilised its A Block spectrum holdings to support the initial rollout of LTE services across selected markets; through a partnership with King Street Wireless, the cellco picked up more than 150 A and B Block licences during the auction, which concluded in March 2008.
The deal with Actel follows a similar agreement with CenturyLink recently, which saw the cellco acquire concessions in Green Bay and La Crosse (Wisconsin); Springfield and Columbia (Missouri); Peoria (Illinois); Lincoln (Nebraska); and Pendleton (Oregon). The purchases were seen as further evidence that the cellco is seemingly unconcerned about the ongoing interference issues surrounding the lower 700MHz spectrum band. As reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate last month, US Cellular was one of a number of regional operators to call AT&T Mobility’s bluff, by claiming that studies have demonstrated that there are no interference issues between devices operating in the lower bands of the 700MHz spectrum or the TV broadcast channel 51 – both of which are close to the Lower A Block. Mobile giant AT&T Inc had previously put in place its own distinct and separate ‘band class’ for Long Term Evolution (LTE) devices that would not interoperate with the services deployed by regional carriers in other parts of the 700MHz band; for its part AT&T acquired 227 B Block licences in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) 2008 spectrum auction, paying a total of USD6.6 billion.