FCC relaxes ASTCA rollout obligations; telco given seven months to deploy LTE

22 Aug 2017

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has confirmed that it has allowed Pago Pago-based American Samoa Telecommunications Authority (ASTCA) extra time to deploy its 4G LTE network, after the state-backed firm failed to fulfil its rollout obligations. ASTCA was the winning bidder for 80MHz of 4G spectrum in FCC Auctions 71 and 78, and the FCC granted the licences to ASTCA on 24 January 2011. Accordingly, ASTCA’s initial five-year construction deadline for each of its licences was 24 January 2016.

The FCC acknowledged that the isolated location, lack of industry-specific suppliers and unpredictable mainland delivery options compound the challenges in meeting construction requirements, with American Samoa’s topographic and environmental characteristics also posing problems for licensees. For its part, ASTCA noted that it was unable to provide 4G LTE service on its PCS spectrum by simply installing LTE equipment because the pre-existing copper infrastructure and circuit switching network limited backhaul speeds to 10Mbps – not enough throughput to make LTE deployment ‘meaningful’. In order to provide advanced telecommunications service offerings, ASTCA reports that it has devoted its staff and resources over the last five years to the BLAST project, a USD95 million programme to replace legacy copper infrastructure with a fibre-optic network linking the islands of American Samoa.

ASTCA has now been granted seven months (from the date of reinstatement of its licences) to fully deploy its 4G LTE network. By the end of this period, ASTCA has stated that it will provide coverage to 60.42% of American Samoa’s population on the A and D block channels and to 34.34% of the population on the C and F block channels, with a combined LTE coverage of more than 80% of the population. The FCC will review the telco’s progress in March 2018.

American Samoa is a remote, unincorporated territory of the United States located approximately 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii and 4,800 miles from the US mainland, consisting of seven islands separated by large stretches of water.