AT&T and Verizon: No 700 MHz Interoperability For You!

Interoperability among wireless carriers in the sub-1 GHz spectrum band could enable the U.S. government to earn as much as $3.5 billion more in upcoming spectrum auctions than if interoperability is not mandated, argues a report issued late last week by Information Age Economics.

The report, titled “Non-Interoperability at 700 MHz: Lower Revenues & Higher Prices,” was sponsored by the Rural Cellular Association. They worry they’ll be shut out by AT&T and Verizon, arguing that those companies “increase their market power in the U.S. at the expense of all other service providers and stakeholders.”

The Public Safety Broadband block uses half of the Band 14 700MHz block. While Band 14 is a 10Mhz by 10MHz allocation, only half can operate in (LTE) broadband mode. The other half is dedicated to narrowband voice. Public Safety wants to get the adjoining chunk of spectrum, known as the D Block. This will enable it to have a 10MHz by 10MHz allocation for broadband, similar to Verizon and AT&T’s LTE service. But it would require building a dedicated, and largely duplicated nationwide LTE network just for first responders.

According to the interoperability report (pdf):

Non-interoperability is not justified and is not in the national interest. Nor is it in the long-term interests of the Big Two, Verizon and AT&T Mobility. The adverse economic, budgetary and wireless operational consequences of 700 MHz non-interoperability are so substantial, diverse, and widespread that its justification should require solid evidence of a countervailing and overwhelming harm that can only be avoided by non-interoperable operation.

The interoperability issue is somewhat complex because different bands have different power requirements, explains Fierce Wireless. The reason for having different power profiles is to avoid interfering with adjoining services.

The four different band classes within 700 MHz include class 12, 13, 14 and 17. Verizon acquired most of its spectrum in band class 13, while many of AT&T’s 700 MHz licenses sit in the lower C and B Blocks (class 17). A number of smaller operators (and AT&T) acquired 700 MHz spectrum licenses in the Lower A, B and C Blocks, which lie in band class 12.

Without an interoperability mandate, the report authors argue that many potential bidders will not bid in future 700 MHz auctions because they will be “discouraged by the prospect that they may not be able to acquire competitive devices…offered by the Big Two.”

Verizon’s devices only work on their own upper C Block. AT&T’s devices only work on their own A, B and C blocks in the lower 700 MHz band. Neither carrier is interoperable with other carriers. No roaming. Yet both carriers manage to interoperate in public safety (band class 14) – which requires different power requirements then their commercial LTE service.

Such restrictive practices can be used as a competitive blocking tactic to undermine competition, reduce consumer choice, slow the build out of broadband in rural areas, prevent roaming in the 700 MHz band, reduce the value of the 700 MHz A Block spectrum, argue rural carriers who will be shut out by AT&T or Verizon, even though they own and operate their own 700 MHz service.

But where there’s a buck to be made, interoperability happens:

Related stories on DailyWireless include; Alca-Lu’s LTE Public Safety Network, D-Block Legislation Stalled, Seybold: Furgetabout Video on LTE Public Safety Band, Broadband Disability Act, Public Service Radio Convention, Public Safety Net Removed from Debt Ceiling Bill, The D-Block Gamble, D-Block Gets a Hearing, National Wireless Initiative, White House: D-Block to Police/Fire, State of the Spectrum, FCC Green Lights Lightsquared, Oregon’s $600M Public Safety Network Likely Killed, Bay Area 700 MHz Net in Altercation , SF Announces LTE First Responder Net, New York Cancels Statewide Wireless Network, M/A-COM to NY: We’re Good, The D-Block Gamble, National Wireless Initiative, White House: D-Block to Police/Fire, White Space War, White Space To Go, White Spaces Get IEEE Standard, Broadcasters: Portable Devices Kill DTV, Mud Fight in White Space, LTE Vrs WiMAX: It’s a Wrap!, The 700 Mhz Club

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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