AT&T Mobility has deployed its 2.3GHz Wireless Communications Services (WCS) spectrum for Long Term Evolution (LTE) use in a handful of markets, Fierce Wireless reports, thus fulfilling the operator’s previously stated goal of utilising the spectrum this summer. However, it is unclear how widespread the rollout is at this point or how quickly it will bring extra capacity to the carrier’s network. An AT&T statement provided to the US technology site reads: ‘We have started the deployment and already have a couple markets deployed … We’ll continue to deploy WCS spectrum to meet our customers’ needs, while providing the best possible network experience’. Earlier in the year, Tom Keathley, senior vice president of network and product planning at AT&T, indicated that the airwaves were initially expected to be deployed in dense, urban areas, with the cellco viewing WCS as a ‘capacity layer’ on top of its nationwide 700MHz 4G deployment.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in August 2012 AT&T agreed 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. The deal effectively combined the nation’s two largest WCS spectrum holders (AT&T being the largest). Subsequently, May 2014 saw AT&T ink an agreement to purchase 19 additional WCS licences from Sprint Corp; the concessions covered a number of locations across the South, including markets in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Georgia.
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. Encouragingly for AT&T, October 2012 saw the FCC unanimously approve changes to the 2.3GHz WCS band that would effectively allow AT&T to utilise the spectrum for LTE network deployment.