FCC grants AT&T approval for AWS, WCS frequencies

20 Dec 2012

AT&T Mobility has received approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to acquire sought-after Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) and 2.3GHz Wireless Communications Services (WCS) spectrum, which it intends to use to support its in-deployment Long Term Evolution (LTE) network in coming years. AT&T lined up a series of separate deals throughout the course of the year and the FCC opted to group them together before approving them all simultaneously this week.

Fierce Wireless reports that by dint of the regulator’s approval, AT&T has acquired AWS and WCS spectrum in 608 cellular market areas, covering 82% of the population of the continental United States. Specifically, AT&T will receive 10MHz-20MHz of WCS ‘A’ and ‘B’ block spectrum in 473 Cellular Market Areas (CMAs), covering close to 70% of the population; 5MHz-10MHz of WCS ‘C’ and ‘D’ block spectrum in 344 CMAs, covering 54% of the US; and 10MHz-30MHz of AWS spectrum in 29 CMAs, covering 2% of the country.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, August 2012 saw AT&T agree a deal worth up to USD600 million to acquire San Diego-based spectrum holding company 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 effectively combines the nation’s two largest WCS spectrum holders (AT&T is the largest and NextWave is the second largest). AT&T went on to strike deals with Comcast and Horizon Wi-Com – two of the last remaining WCS spectrum holders outside of AT&T and NextWave. Additional spectrum has been sourced from the San Diego Gas & Electric Company.