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AT & T, T-Mobile Among New Spectrum Swaps

Wed, 05/16/2012 - 7:29am
Maisie Ramsay

Five wireless operators and one cable provider filed yesterday to swap various swaths of spectrum, reflecting larger moves within the industry to secure additional licenses for overburdened legacy networks and new LTE service. 

AT&T, U.S. Cellular, Cox Communications, Peoples Telephone Cooperative, T-Mobile USA and Cricket Communications all filed various applications with the FCC on Tuesday to sell or exchange spectrum licenses.  

AT&T is buying eight 700 MHz lower B block licenses off Cox in areas of Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Virginia.  

AT&T is also buying four lower 700 MHz C block licenses in Arkansas and Texas from Peoples Telephone Cooperative, which launched LTE in Texas in February through a partnership with the NetAmerica Alliance.  

If the FCC approves the sale, the two deals would give AT&T up to 55 MHz of spectrum below 1 GHz in several markets covered by the transaction.  

The documents posted by the FCC did not specify what the licenses would be used for, but AT&T will presumably put them to use in its LTE network, which uses lower B block and lower C block spectrum in the 700 MHz band.  

U.S. Cellular is buying four lower 700 MHz B block licenses from Cox spanning, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The licenses could improve the regional operator's constrained spectrum position for its LTE network, giving it an estimated total of 61 MHz of spectrum below 1 GHz in 29 counties, and 49 MHz below 1 GHz in an additional 25 counties. 

Cox, which has long abandoned plans for its own wireless service, sold its AWS spectrum to Verizon Wireless last year. The transaction is still being reviewed by the FCC.

T-Mobile is swapping PCS and AWS spectrum with Cricket and Savary Island. Post-transaction, T-Mobile would hold 80 MHz of spectrum across 55 of the markets covered by the sale and Cricket would hold up to 35 MHz in 18 markets covered by the sale.

The licenses could augment T-Mobile's LTE network, which is being deployed in the AWS band.  

The FCC is giving opponents to the four transactions until May 29 to file petitions to deny. Responses to those petitions must be filed by June 8, with the final round of comments due June 15. 

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