FCC paves the way for AT&T to utilise WCS frequencies for LTE

19 Oct 2012

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has unanimously approved changes to the 2.3GHz Wireless Communications Service (WCS) spectrum band that will effectively allow AT&T Mobility to utilise the spectrum for Long Term Evolution (LTE) network deployment. The FCC report reads: ‘The actions we take will unlock innovation and investment in the 2305MHz-2320MHz and 2345MHz-2360MHz (2.3GHz) WCS bands, allow for the development of vital new broadband services, and further our larger goal of making more spectrum available for broadband services in the highest value frequency ranges. This Order on Reconsideration represents a significant milestone in the development of the WCS bands, as it will enable the deployment of greatly needed new broadband services while continuing to protect satellite radio and aeronautical mobile telemetry operations in adjacent bands, and the deep space network earth station in Goldstone, California’.

In a posting on its Public Policy blog, AT&T Mobility praised the move, saying: ‘While we have not yet seen the final order, we anticipate that the service rules adopted today will permit deployment of LTE technologies in the WCS band while ensuring that satellite radio services are protected from unreasonable interference. AT&T took real risks to develop this under-utilised band and is committed to devoting the resources necessary to unlock its full potential. 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. Our customers will also win, as additional spectrum capacity becomes available to support surging mobile internet usage’.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in June this year AT&T and satellite radio broadcaster Sirius XM filed a joint proposal with the FCC that would protect the broadcaster’s adjacent satellite radio spectrum from interference and finally enable WCS spectrum to be used for mobile broadband. Meanwhile, in August AT&T announced that it had agreed a deal worth up to USD600 million to acquire San Diego-based NextWave Wireless, a major holder of 2.3GHz WCS frequencies. WCS spectrum was first auctioned in 1997, but has never been utilised for mobile broadband usage due to technical rules designed to avoid possible interference with satellite radio users in adjacent spectrum bands. The deal will effectively combine the nation’s two largest WCS spectrum holders (AT&T and NextWave). AT&T is hoping to use the WCS spectrum in combination with its 700MHz and AWS holdings for LTE service in the coming years.

United States, AT&T, AT&T Communications, Federal Communications Commission (FCC)