With the help of some maps from Mosaik, GigaOM breaks down what AT&T really gets if it acquires Leap. Our conclusion: AT&T is paying a ridiculous price but it probably feels it has no choice.
The 39 licenses will cost AT&T $1.9 billion, but it will finally be able to deploy full-capacity networks in key markets like Chicago and Los Angeles. Verizon’s wheeling is dealing in 700 MHz is now over.
By taking in a huge WCS spectrum haul from NextWave, Comcast and others, AT&T has nearly all the components in place to create a nationwide 4G band for its own exclusive use. Now AT&T just has to build it.
AT&T aims in three years to have a new LTE network up in the airwaves the FCC just approved for 4G use. In the rather plodding world of telecom, three years is a quick timeline. But AT&T has political and strategic reasons for moving soon.
The compromise plan turns a worthless hunk of airwaves into prime cellular real estate, while protecting neighboring satellite radio from interference. AT&T now just needs to consolidate the remaining 2.3 GHz licenses out there so it can build its new LTE network.
FCC documentation reveals there are two more LTE bands hidden within AT&T’s version of the new iPhone 5: PCS and cellular. The thing is there are no networks at either frequency today that could connect to the device. Could AT&T be planning a massive network overhaul?
By buying NextWave, AT&T removes the biggest obstacle to its plan to convert the Wireless Communications Services band from a worthless patch of airwaves to highly valuable 4G spectrum. The deal will cost AT&T $600 million but would pay dividends in new LTE capacity.
A wireless band that the mobile industry has practically written off may get a new life as 4G spectrum if a new proposal from AT&T(s t) and Sirius XM(s siri) gets regulatory approval. The two strange bedfellows have submitted a joint filing to the FCC requesting permission to use AT&T’s long dormant 2.3 GHz Wireless Communications Service (WCS) for an LTE network.
Deploying any kind of service on WCS has been cluster-you-know-what for any operator that has made the attempt. ExtremeTech provides an excellent description of the problems of making WCS workable for mobile broadband:
WCS licenses were auctioned off by the FCC in 1997. The FCC hoped that it would be used rather quickly, but the restrictions that WCS imposed on licensees caused issues. For one, the power and emissions restrictions made it nearly impossible to deploy any sort of terrestrial network technology.
The other issue was that satellite radio (officially known as the Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service, or SDARS) lived in between two halves of the WCS frequency range. That meant that terrestrial network technologies would easily block out satellite radio signals from receivers. This alone has severely paralyzed efforts to make the WCS frequencies usable.
AT&T and BellSouth, which was eventually acquired by Ma Bell, experimented with the band for years, launching trial pre-standard WiMAX networks in several markets (Oddly, one of those markets was Pahrump, Nev., the brothel capital of the U.S.). But neither company could make the technology work, and both were constantly running up against the protests of Sirius and XM, which themselves merged in 2008.
But apparently these old antagonists have come to an accord. From the FCC filing:
In order to resolve these issues, AT&T and Sirius XM met to discuss whether their differences could be bridged and have reached an accommodation with significant concessions on both sides. The accommodation, if accepted in its entirety, will enable the adoption of technical rules satisfactory to both interests and allow licenses in the 2.3 GHz band to exploit the most efficient new mobile broadband standards, including LTE, while limiting the potential interference to satellite radio reception to respectable levels.
The major concession appears to be on AT&T’s part. The carrier has agreed to carve out a 5 MHz guard band on either side of Sirius’s satellite spectrum, creating in essence a no-man’s zone where no transmissions can travel. That’s quite a big deal actually: As little as 10 MHz can support a full-fledged HSPA network and is equivalent to half the LTE capacity AT&T has deployed in most markets.
But AT&T figures it is better than not being able to use the spectrum at all — and risk losing it. In fact, AT&T has been trying to sell off the same WCS airwaves it now proposes to make guard bands.
If the FCC grants AT&T’s request it will be left with between 10 and 20 MHz of remaining spectrum over which to launch LTE. It may seem like a win for all parties involved, but this won’t be an automatic approval for the FCC. AT&T is the largest spectrum holder in WCS, but there are other licensees that could potentially get screwed by this proposal. As satellite broadband analyst Tim Farrar points out on his blog, NextWave owns a lot of WCS, and nearly half of its holdings are in the same blocks that AT&T wants to make off-limits.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock user Nicolas Raymond
Sprint is calling foul on AT&T’s attempt to sell off mobile broadband licenses while simultaneously arguing the need to acquire T-Mobile’s spectrum. Sprint’s been plenty right in its criticisms of the AT&T-Mo deal in the past, but this time Sprint’s wrong.
Is there anyone who can say with certainty what the next generation of enterprise data centers will look like? A recent Network World article, for example, handicaps the field of data center vendors, picking HP, IBM, Cisco and VMware as the odds-on favorites (where is Dell?). Given the move toward clouds and fabrics (in which computing, networking and storage are interconnected tightly), this group makes perfect sense for the enterprise. But Google and Amazon have charted a different course, eschewing specialized gear for commodity hardware and secret-sauce software. Which configuration will win out?