Verizon Activates AWS Band

Verizon launched their LTE network service three years ago and today the company announced its LTE capacity will be increasing in major cities by opening up service in the AWS band (1.7/2.1 GHz). Much of that spectrum was purchased from a cable consortium which originally bought the spectrum at the FCC AWS auction in 2006. Verizon bought 122 AWS licenses from cable giants Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks for $3.6 billion.

In every major city east of the Mississippi and in several western markets, Verizon has fielded LTE systems utilizing a full 40 MHz of spectrum, twice as big as the 20 MHz 700 MHz network it has spent the last three years rolling out, notes GigaOm.

Verizon spent $2.8B for 20 MHz F blocks covering the Northeast while SpectrumCo spent $2.4B covering most of the country using 20 MHz licenses in the B block. Those two investments total $5.2 billion (in 2006 dollars). T-Mobile, by contrast, spent $4.1B in 2006, for nationwide AWS coverage using D-F blocks, which are divided by REAG – covering larger areas. Verizon spent a total of $6.4 Billion, if you combine the $3.6B (for cable’s AWS licenses) and $2.8B (in the AWS auction).

The cable spectrum covered 259 million POPs

The Verizon-SpectrumCo deal allowed Verizon to combine the spectrum with its other AWS holdings to give it significant throughput gains.

Verizon says more than 66 percent of their data is now on LTE. Next year, Verizon will roll out Voice over LTE (VoLTE), enabling voice to use the LTE data channels as well as HD Voice and video chat. 4G LTE roaming for Verizon Wireless customers outside the U.S. will also begin in select countries.

The AWS band uses frequencies from 1710 to 1755 MHz for uplink, and from 2110 to 2155 MHz for downlink. Coverage is similar to the PCS band (1.9 GHz), used by most of today’s mobile carriers. The unpaired section of the AWS band goes from 2150 to 2162 MHz. It was once promoted by M2Z for free, nationwide broadband, subsidized with advertising revenue.

T-Mobile and Verizon are the dominant owners of AWS spectrum in the United States. Presumably Verizon and T-Mobile could allow LTE roaming. Currently there is no roaming between AT&T and Verizon LTE service on the 700 MHz band.

T-Mobile also received AWS spectrum from AT&T as a result of their failed merger.

AT&T agreed to pay T-Mobile $3B and give T-Mobile AWS spectrum in 128 Cellular Market Areas, including 12 of the top 20 markets.

MetroPCS and T-Mobile USA merged this year, also combining their AWS and PCS spectrum assets.

Meanwhile, AT&T bought Leap Wireless (Cricket), largely for their AWS spectrum (and to keep it out of the hands of T-Mobile and Verizon). Leap’s PCS and AWS spectrum covers approximately 137 million potential customers. It is about the only AWS spectrum that AT&T now controls.

AT&T’s spectrum strategy appears to be a slow motion train wreck. Maybe 40,000 WiFi-enabled small cells will do it for them. Their AWS spectrum is small compared to T-Mobile or Verizon and AT&T’s 2.3 GHz gambit is spotty at best. The 20 MHz of 2.3 GHz, covering some 108 million potential subscribers, does not a nationwide network make.

Sprint has virtually no AWS spectrum. Sprint Spark strategy is to enable handsets and devices to seamlessly roam from LTE networks in the 850 MHz, 1.9 MHz and 2.5 GHz band using LTE-A for high capacity, especially in the 2.5 GHz band.

AT&T recently bought 39 Verizon 700 MHz B Block licenses in 18 states for $1.9 billion (AT&T uses the B and C blocks of the lower 700 MHz band), while Verizon got 10 MHz AWS licenses in certain western markets out of that deal, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Fresno, Calif., and Portland, Ore.

Verizon paid $2.4 billion for 700 MHz A Block licenses in the 2008 auction, which it doesn’t use (Verizon uses the “C” block). They may sell them to AT&T or T-Mobile.

It could be a whole new ballgame with the entrance of 600 MHz spectrum and Dish Networks (which already controls 40 MHz of 2.1 GHz and a 6 MHz block of 700 MHz).

Let’s call it. I say T-Mobile and Sprint are safe, Verizon walks and AT&T is out. Dish could hit a home run. Grover Norquist is outtathere!

Related Dailywireless articles include; DOJ Sets Conditions for Verizon AWS, Verizon Getting AWS Spectrum Says WSJ, T-Mobile Okayed to Test Spectrum Sharing, Verizon’s Spectrum Deal: Tough Nut, AT&T Buys 2.3 GHz from NextWave, AT&T Wants 2.3 GHz for LTE, FCC to Okay Verizon/Cable Spectrum Buy, FCC Wants More Data on AWS Verizon Buy, T-Mobile Gets AWS Spectrum from Breakup, Verizon Buying Nationwide AWS Spectrum from Cable, 300 MHz Expected from Refarming and TV Spectrum, AT&T Wants 2.3 GHz for LTE and T-Mobile USA Upgrades to LTE

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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