“That’s where the money is”
– Willie Sutton
Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. mobile-phone carrier, may follow AT&T in introducing tiered pricing and eliminating unlimited data plans, reports Business Week (see Dailywireless: AT&T Data Caps Extend to Femtocells & AT&T’s New Data Plans).
“We will probably need to change the design of our pricing where it will not be totally unlimited, flat rate,” John Killian, chief financial officer of Verizon Communications Inc., the wireless unit’s parent, said in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York today.
Verizon currently requires 3G smartphone users to pay $30 per month for unlimited data, with 3G multimedia device owners required to pay $9.99 per month for 25 MB of data.
AT&T revamped its data pricing plans this month, eliminating their $30/month unlimited (5GB) option for the iPad. New AT&T customers must purchase either a 200 MB of data plan for $15/mo or 2 GB plan for $25/month. The $25/mo (2GB) plan replaces the existing $29.99 unlimited plan. On the $25/mo (2GB) plan, you pay $10 for each additional GB.
Now 5 GB/month will cost $25 + $30 = $55. Some subscribers say AT&T’s new data plan will nearly double their monthly bill.
The company anticipates “explosions in data traffic” over wireless networks as new phones on 4G networks incorporate data- heavy applications, such as video downloads, he said.
This chart shows the unused AWS spectrum owned by AT&T and Verizon in light blue.
T-Mobile has activated their AWS spectrum for HSPA+ service, nationwide. AT&T and Verizon, in contrast, paid more than $4 billion for their AWS spectrum. Spectrum that remains untouched.
|Bidders||Net total of high bids|
|1. T-Mobile||$4.2 billion|
|2. Verizon Wireless||$2.8 billion|
|3. SpectrumCo||$2.4 billion|
|4. MetroPCS||$1.4 billion|
|5. Cingular||$1.3 billion|
|6. Cricket||$710 million|
|7. Denali Spectrum||$365 million|
|8. Barat Wireless||$127 million|
|9. AWS Wireless||$116 million|
|10. Atlantic Wireless||$81 million|
|Click here to find out who is backing these bidders.|
700 MHz Spectrum Winners (2008)
- Verizon Wireless spent $2.8 billion for (currently unused) AWS frequencies and $9.36B for 700 Mhz — but at least they plan on using their 700MHz frequencies. Verizon completed technical trials of LTE in Boston and Seattle and is now moving on to “friendly user trials” in five cities.
- AT&T (then Cingular) spent $1.3 billion for AWS frequencies in the 2006 auction and $6.64B for 700 MHz frequencies in 2008. AT&T also paid $2.5 billion in cash for 700 MHz licenses owned by Aloha Partners. AT&T now covers 100 percent of the top 200 markets. AT&T has spent over $10 billion for 700 MHz and AWS spectrum. They won’t use any of it anytime soon.
- Cable operators spent $2.4 billion for (currently unused) AWS frequencies. Comcast and Time Warner then invested billions in Clear’s Mobile WiMAX frequencies at 2.6 GHz, which they are now using instead of their AWS spectrum. Cable operators are sitting on $2.4B in AWS spectrum – just speculating the price will appreciate. Consumers be damned.
Telcos paid over $15 billion for spectrum they are not using. AT&T is the worst offender, sitting on more than $10 billion in spectrum. The FCC seems to encourage this kind of speculation, and is doing the Telco’s bidding by opening more spectrum for corporations to sit on.
Why? That’s where the money is. The U.S. government finds it hard to turn down $20 billion in cash. But it’s flawed policy. It doesn’t serve the public.
Telecommunication companies should use it or loose it.
In October 2009, a Department of Commerce survey found that a little over one-third of households did not use a broadband service, sometimes by choice, but often because of cost. At least two of the five FCC commissioners, Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn, have said that broadband needs to be seen as a civil right.
The FCC’s 2006 AWS auction sold 1,122 licenses, grossing $13.9 billion for the U.S. Treasury. T-Mobile USA, the No. 4 U.S. wireless provider, topped the bidding by offering almost $4.2 billion for 120 licenses, Verizon was 2nd, spending $2.8B and cable operators (SpectrumCo) was third, spending $2.4 billion.
T-Mobile, Cricket and MetroPCS are using their expensive AWS spectrum. Verizon and AT&T are not.
SpectrumCo, the AWS bidding consortium with Cox, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, picked up 137 licenses in 2006’s Advanced Wireless Services auction (at 1.7/2.1 GHz). SpectrumCo won a total of 137 AWS licenses for $2.37 billion. Comcast’s share was $1.29 billion, followed by Time Warner Cable’s $632.2 million, and Cox’s $248.3 million. (See SpectrumCo Gets Licenses). Cox paid $248.3 million for AWS licenses in 2006, and transfered those licenses out of SpectrumCo and directly to Cox.
Verizon’s CEO Ivan Seidenberg now says there’s plenty of spectrum after all. He thinks the FCC should butt out and let big business manage spectrum.
Money talks. It can make a persuasive case for some legislators and regulators.
Mike Dano in Fierce Wireless created a chart (below) that breaks down the projected “4G” coverage of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile in the US by the end of the year.
- Verizon Wireless: Verizon expects to cover 100 million people with LTE before 2010 is out but currently has zero. They hope to have blanket 4G coverage by the end of 2013.
- AT&T: Currently offers HSPA speeds of 3.6 Mbps down nationwide, but began upgrading software at its cellular towers this past January for a 7.2 Mbps rollout this year. Unfortunately the backhaul network is lagging. The majority of AT&T towers still use 4-6, T-1 lines, so all users must share the 6-9 Mbps available to the tower. AT&T says it will begin a 4G rollout with LTE in 2011, which should boost speeds to the 5-12 Mbps range. Widespread availability is not expected until 2014.
- Sprint: Sprint has partnered with Clearwire’s WiMAX (instead of LTE) to use 4G. It currently covers 43 million potential customers and aims to boost that number to 120 million before the end of 2010.
- T-Mobile: T-Mobile, the smallest major carrier, now has more than 75 million people covered by their HSPA+ network and all of T-Mobile’s coverage area — around 185 million — will see it by end of year.
- Clearwire: Clear offers WiMAX in some three dozen cities, and expects to cover 120 million people, including most major cities by year’s end. The company recently left open the slim possibility of transitioning to LTE from WiMAX technology at some point in the future.
Telcos aren’t in business to provide service. They’re in business to make money. Speed and coverage are coming. Affordable rates are not. Phoney scarcity is why.
Related Dailywireless articles include; AT&T Data Caps Extend to Femtocells, AT&T’s New Data Plans, T-Mobile: Now HSPA+ Coverage for 75M, Public Safety: Show Us The Money, Clear: No Limits, FCC to Okay $2.3B AT&T Deal, Cellcos: One Thing – Bandwidth, T-Mobile Eyeing Clear Spectrum, FCC Considers Auctioning Off TV Frequencies, FCC Okays Terrestrial LTE for SkyTerra, Battle of the Bands Goes to Congress, D-Block: It’s Done; Congress Pays, LTE: Cox Cable Calling , White Spaces Trialed in North Carolina, FCC: Change for Broadcasting & USF, FCC Moves Forward with White Space Databases, Comcast Goes Mobile with WiMAX, Time-Warner Adding Mobile WiMAX Service,Free Internet Access Proposed by FCC, National Broadband Plan Previewed, D-Block: It’s Done; Congress Pays, FCC “Finds” 500MHz?, FCC Floats “100 Squared” Initiative, FCC to Auction TV Airwaves?,