The FCC today okayed the AT&T plan to use the WCS spectrum for LTE in the future. The FCC approved their joint compromise proposal that protects the satellite radio service by using 5 MHz guardbands on either side of the satellite radio spectrum.
The FCC auctioned off the spectrum in 1997, but it’s never been put to meaningful use because of the potential for interference.
Currently there is 30 MHz of WCS spectrum broken into two 5×5 MHz paired channels (the A and B Block) and two 5 MHz unpaired channels (the C and D Block). The C and D Blocks are next to the spectrum used by Sirius XM.
Under the proposal from AT&T and Sirius XM, AT&T would not use the C and D Block spectrum for mobile service in exchange for more liberal rules on the A and B Block spectrum, thus allowing AT&T to deploy FDD-LTE service in that band.
The new FCC proposal would allow mobile broadband on 20MHz of the total 30MHz in the WCS spectrum, according to Tammy Sun, an FCC spokeswoman.
AT&T previously said it will take around four and a half years to make repurposed 2.3 GHz Wireless Communication Service (WCS) spectrum usable for LTE services. In addition, AT&T will need to construct the infrastructure to deliver it.
Today, however, on the AT&T Policy Blog, Joan Marsh, AT&T Vice President of Federal Regulatory said, “We expect to commence deployment of LTE infrastructure in the band in as early as three years, allowing us to enhance our wireless broadband services.”
AT&T is paying $600 million for Nextwave’s C&D block licenses it can’t use. That gets them nothing. AT&T can only use the “A” & “B” block.
The 20 MHz covering some 108 million potential subscribers does not a nationwide network make. Charlie Ergen is going to tell AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, my way or the highway for Dish. It’s pretty funny for us in the peanut gallery.
The 2.3 GHz band is often used for 4G (LTE) service in other countries, such as China and India. It’s also used to bring fixed LTE to rural Australia for their National Broadband Network (NBN). But AT&T’s WCS spectrum is paired, so each channel is only 10 MHz wide. It’s not going to save them from spectrum shortage.