Sure, AT&T’s grand plan to take over T-Mobile has fallen on its face, but at least the company now has more spectrum available for its budding 4G LTE network, thanks to government approval for a deal announced last year.
The FCC has approved AT&T’s $1.92 billion purchase of Qualcomm’s 700 megahertz spectrum, originally meant for the company’s failed FLO TV project, which AT&T will use to strengthen its LTE network.
Verizon is in the midst of several big spectrum deals of its own (which the government is also investigating), so this is a particularly desperate win for AT&T. And with the failure of the T-Mobile deal, which would have given AT&T plenty more spectrum, the carrier needs to scrape up as much wireless space as it can find.
Qualcomm’s block of spectrum covers more than 300 million people across the country, including major cities like New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco. AT&T says it intends to use the spectrum to increase the downstream speed and total capacity of its 4G network. The company will use carrier aggregation with the spectrum, a technology for LTE 4G networks that allows networks to use multiple frequencies to achieve high speeds, to combine its existing spectrum with Qualcomm’s.
The FCC has imposed few limitations on the deal, reports the Wall Street Journal, other than making sure AT&T keeps an eye on spectrum interference and offers data roaming to competitors. The agency didn’t force AT&T to make sure its wireless frequencies are compatible with nearby spectrum, something that smaller carriers have been pushing for.
Apparently, the FCC agreed with AT&T’s argument that ensuring frequency interoperability would slow down its 4G roll-out — though the agency did say that it will conduct an examination of the industry next year to determine if that’s truly the case.