FCC Allows AT&T to Use Untapped Airwaves

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Posted 5 years ago

Following a plan submitted by AT&T and satellite radio provider Sirius FM earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission has voted that AT&T be granted use of a section of unused airwaves that will be used to help the wireless carrier expand their 4G LTE network.

Earlier this year the joint plan was submitted to resolve concerns over interference in the 2.3GHz spectrum band. By affirming the plan, the FFC has handed over 30MHz of the band, known as Wireless Communications Services (WCS), to AT&T for use with its mobile broadband service.

“Making this particular spectrum available for broadband will help sustain U.S. mobile leadership in part because the U.S. is leading the way in developing LTE standards for the WCS band,” said FCC Commissioner Julius Genachowski, as reported by CIO. “Today’s order frees up spectrum by removing regulatory barriers to flexible use of spectrum for broadband, an approach that we are seeking to implement across the board, that can be as valuable as clearing and reallocating new bands of spectrum.”

The reason why AT&T has been unable to use these airwaves previously is to do with the interference that would be caused to Sirius XM’s satellite radio signals. However, with mobile broadband ever-increasing, more spectrum is needed by mobile carriers; therefore, AT&T worked with Sirius to come up with an agreement that would see 10MHz of the WCS either side of the radio provider turned into “guard bands”, in effect, protecting Sirius from interference. The agreement clearly appealed to the FCC who approved it on a 5-0 vote.

In a blog post, AT&T’s vice president of federal regulatory affairs Joan Marsh praised the decision: “The era of regulatory dispute and uncertainty in the WCS band is finally drawing to a close. We anticipate that the service rules adopted today will permit deployment of LTE technologies in the WCS band while ensuring that satellite radio services are protected from unreasonable interference.”

She also added that AT&T has taken “real risks to develop this under-utilized band.”

With the arrival of the new iPhone and growing consumer demand for better mobile broadband, improving and expanding their 4G LTE network is essential for AT&T, so this news is great for the wireless carrier. Joan Marsh predicted that AT&T will begin deploying LTE service using this spectrum is about three years.

– Anthony Carter

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