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Thursday, August 2, 2012

AT&T's Wireless Communication Services (WCS) Proposal and Acquistion

AT&T (A) has made an aggressive move into the Wireless Communication Services (WCS) band, with a two prong attack.  First, AT&T has announced they have come to terms to acquire the following companies' WCS spectrum holdings:  Nextwave (NW), Comcast (CC), Horizon (HO), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SD).  Reflected above is the consolidated result for the New York and Los Angeles Cellular Market Areas (CMA).  In both markets, AT&T will control all of the WCS spectrum below and above the Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service (DARS) spectrum block. This spectrum acquisition makes AT&T the primary (not exclusive) owner of WCS spectrum, enabling AT&T to propose to the FCC a band configuration that would enable FDD-LTE services to be launched in the lower 10MHz of the WCS band, paired with the upper 10MHz of the WCS band.  The lower 10MHz would be for base station operation and the upper 10MHz would be for mobile device operation.  The WCS C and D blocks (5MHz each) would be held as guardbands to protect the Satellite DARS transmissions.  

While this represents a significant effort on AT&T's part there are several issues that need to be resolved.
  1. AT&T does not control all of the necessary spectrum for all of the country, let alone the Top 100 markets.  For example, Boston, St. Louis, and Dallas all have other spectrum owners that are not a part of this agreement with the FCC.  Obviously, AT&T can purchase this spectrum if it can come to terms with the sellers.  Also the FCC, could make it a market level decision, enabling AT&T to reconfigure the WCS if it controls all the spectrum in a particular market.
  2. Currently on the LTE band plan, the WCS spectrum band is harmonized internationally as a TDD-LTE spectrum band.  AT&T will need to propose a new supported configuration to the 3GPP standards body for approval.  This would be similar to the proposal Clearwire made to the 3GPP several years ago to receive Band 41 approval.  Band 41 enabled the entire US Broadband Radio Service (BRS)/Education Broadcast Service (EBS) spectrum to be used for TD-LTE operations.  Prior to this, only the middle 60MHz (Band 38) was designated for TD-LTE operations and the upper and lower sections of the BRS/EBS spectrum were designated for FD-LTE operation.
What type of a time frame do would you put on receiving 3GPP standards support?