AT&T has agreed to bring interoperability to the lower 700 MHz band, the company said in a statement.
“AT&T, for its part, has committed to investing considerable time and resources to the modification of its 700 MHz LTE network through the implementation of a newly-standardized software feature. That effort will allow AT&T’s network to support Band 12 capable devices”.
FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said, “This is a big win for consumers, especially in rural areas, who will see more competition and more choices. Also, by making it easier for small wireless carriers to compete, today’s interoperability solution will spur private investment, job creation, and the development of innovative new services and devices.”
Smaller competitors who operate on the lower “A Block”, including MetroPCS, C Spire, and others represented by the Rural Cellular Association, have found themselves to be isolated islands of incompatibility. AT&T, which operates in the B and C Blocks in the lower 700 MHz band, found it advantageous to freeze out their competitors from LTE roaming.
AT&T fought any changes, citing “interference concerns” competitors argued didn’t exist.
Why did AT&T capitulate?
You might consider it a plea bargain. AT&T and Verizon Wireless together currently hold in excess of 100 MHz of lower-band spectrum averaged across the top 100 markets, while all other carriers combined hold barely over 20 MHz.
AT&T and Verizon want unfettered spectrum rights for in the new 600 MHz band, rather than let competitors in.
Smaller competitors, like T-Mobile, argue that the duopoly should not be allowed to buy up all the beach-front property in the interests of competition.
Incoming FCC boss Tom Wheeler, will likely make that decision.
In other news, Verizon is nearing the end of a legal battle that could render the FCC’s net neutrality rules a thing of the past, notes The Verge. Today, the two groups presented oral arguments to a DC circuit court, hoping to respectively strike down or uphold the Open Internet framework — a set of rules meant to stop internet providers from effectively shutting out competing services.
Supporters of the Open Internet framework, say net neutrality is vital to a healthy internet. To Verizon and other opponents, it’s an unnecessary and burdensome regulation.