FCC Seeks Answers from Verizon on Spectrum Deals

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By Paul Barbagallo  


The Federal Communications Commission wants Verizon Wireless to answer a series of questions about the 700 MHz band spectrum that the company said it would sell off if federal regulators approve a separate spectrum purchase deal with the nation's leading cable operators.

In a May 15 letter to Verizon, Rick Kaplan, the FCC's Wireless Bureau Chief, asked whether the company would still consider selling the spectrum licenses for “A” and “B” blocks in the 700 MHz band if the commission ultimately decides not to consent to the sale of “all” of the cable companies' spectrum--122 Advanced Wireless Services, or AWS, licenses--to Verizon.

Last month, Verizon announced an “open” sale of the spectrum in part to frame discussions about divestitures of assets as the FCC and the Justice Department review its deals with Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, and Cox Communications (75 TCM, 4/19/12).

T-Mobile USA has already said that it will not be a buyer of Verizon's spectrum because of interference concerns tied to the A and B blocks from adjacent-band transmissions.

Another caveat for potential buyers is that the future licensee, or licensees, of Verizon's 700 MHz spectrum must adhere to an interim FCC build-out requirement of 35 percent by June 2013--a deadline Verizon has been facing.

In the letter, Kaplan asked Verizon what steps it has been taking to deploy mobile service in the A and B blocks by the deadline.

Spectrum in the 700 MHz band, which had been freed up by the move to digital television, is among the most coveted in the wireless world, known as the last “beachfront property.” Because the band is at a lower frequency than cellular and digital wireless services, it has a far greater range, and it penetrates walls more effectively.

Verizon still intends to retain its spectrum in the 700 MHz “C Block,” which the company would combine with the AWS spectrum it acquires from the cable operators to roll out 4G LTE (fourth-generation, long-term evolution) services nationwide.

Kaplan asked for responses by May 22.

To see the letter, visit http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-314071A1.pdf.

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