Spectrum issues are not always primary strategic issues in the communications business. Most of the time, other concerns dominate executive thinking. But spectrum issues now are emerging in a variety of ways as strategic matters, as typically is the case early in a new era of business and network deployment. The U.S. mobile duopoly, for example, was broken by the issuance of new "Personal Communications Service" spectrum.
New blocks of Advanced Wireless Service and Wireless Communications Service spectrum are underpinning the emergence of U.S. Long Term Evolution networks, for example. In Europe, major spectrum auctions of former broadcast TV spectrum will create the foundation for LTE in Europe.
The Federal Communications Commission, for example, is preparing to approve an AT&T request of use 20 MHz of its spectrum in the 2.3-GHz Wireless Communications Services (band for a new LTE network, after AT&T agreed to use 10 MHz of its spectrum as guard bands to avoid interference with Sirius XM services).
Separately, Sprint and Dish Network are fighting over a Federal Communications Commission proposal to shift 40 megaHertz of Dish Network AWS-4 spectrum about five megahertz in frequency, to allow Sprint to consolidate some of its existing spectrum to support LTE.
Dish Network cannot move forward with its own LTE network plans until the FCC changes its regulations on the AWS-4 spectrum, which originally was licensed for “Mobile Satellite Service.” But one issue is the request by Sprint to have the AWS-4 band shifted upwards in frequency by 5 MHz.
The Sprint proposal would shift the band up 5 MHz from 2000-2020 MHz to 2005-2025 MHz, and a similar 5 MHz on the upper paired band, allowing that spectrum to be put up for auction.
Sprint wants the FCC to shift the frequency plan so that if it wins the frequencies at auction, its adjacent Sprint-owned “PCS” spectrum in the 1915 to 1920 MHz and 1995 to 2005 MHz blocks could be used to create a bigger block of contiguous spectrum for its LTE network.
Dish argues that the spectrum shift would delay its plans to build a new LTE network.
Additionally, AT&T has been a major spectrum-buying spree to support its own LTE network. And Verizon Wireless recently received clearance to buy chunks of LTE spectrum from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks.
Without a doubt, spectrum issues have moved to the forefront of wireless carrier strategy in the U.S. and other markets.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman