Verizon spectrum buy hits roadblocks

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It's pretty clear that Verizon Wireless thought its proposal to buy unused AWS wireless spectrum from a group of cable companies would sail through the Federal Communications Commission. After all, the cable companies weren't using it, had no plans to use it, and Verizon Wireless needed the spectrum, it said. The idea, according to the company, was to offer more frequencies to a wide range of devices in a frequency band already supported by many device manufacturers.

Then Verizon (NYSE: VZ) Wireless announced that it would sell off its 700 MHz spectrum to other carriers. What it didn't say was that opposition to its plan to take over a bunch of AWS spectrum was running into opposition from other carriers, including T-Mobile, Consumers Union and the Rural Cellular Association.

On April 19, T-Mobile executives met with the FCC's wireless bureau chief, Rick Kaplan, to express their concerns, and to tell the FCC that the 700 MHz spectrum being offered to other carriers by Verizon Wireless wasn't desirable due to interference and the lack of compatible devices.

Now, a consortium of groups has filed a petition to stop consideration of Verizon Wireless' application until the group hs the opportunity to study the application. The group, led by the Communications Workers of America, complains that they have been prevented from examining Verizon's documents due to a variety of technical reasons, including document formats not supported by their attorneys. They also claim that there have been delays in providing documents by Verizon and others.

"As parties have argued in Petitions, Comments, and Reply Comments filed in this proceeding, the transactions under review have the potential to forever change the competitive landscape in the wireless, broadband, and video markets," the group says in its filing. "The Commission has taken significant steps toward making its process transparent by allowing authorized personnel to review and analyze the documentation that it has required from the Applicants. Now, considering the delays in receiving data and the technical challenges involved, the Commission should take the further step of giving reviewers the additional time that is necessary to study the documents and data and respond to the Commission with cogent analysis."

What this means to users is that any immediate expansion of LTE service by Verizon Wireless probably won't happen. However, Verizon Wireless has nearly completed its build-out of LTE service across the United States. Whether this expansion by Verizon Wireless ever happens at all still awaits commission action. If the FCC agrees to suspend its 180-day clock for this action, it's not clear when the waiting will stop.

Related Articles:
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Solving the spectrum crisis: The federal government giveth, then taketh back

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