AT&T wins go-ahead for Qualcomm spectrum purchase

Posted by Emma Woollacott

AT&T may have failed in its bid to take over T-Mobile, but it has at least gained regulatory approval for its purchase of wireless spectrum from Qualcomm.

It's paying around $1.93 billion for 700 MHz spectrum licenses covering more than 300 million people, largely in the hope of improving its fourth-generation LTE network - and iPhone service quality.

It plans to use the spectrum as extra downlink, using carrier aggregation technology designed to increase capacity by enabling unpaired spectrum to be used in conjunction with paired spectrum for 4G services.

Qualcomm had been using the spectrum for its less-than-popular Forward Link Only MediaFLO TV service.

"We appreciate the FCC Chairman, the Commissioners and their staff for completing its review before the holidays," says Bob Quinn, senior vice president - Federal Regulatory, AT&T.

"As spectrum is the lifeblood of the US wireless industry, we are pleased that the FCC did not reduce the spectrum screen. However, we continue to believe any changes to the process by which it is allocated should be subject to open and transparent public discussion and clear to everyone with an interest in ensuring the health of our industry."

The Federal Communications Commission says it is concerned that the purchase could cause competitive harm - the reason the T-Mobile acquisition was turned down. However, it's been persuaded on the condition that AT&T allow its competitors to roam on its network.

"We conclude that our competitive concerns can be mitigated by ensuring that AT&T’s use of the newly acquired spectrum does not impede actual and potential competitors’ operation on neighboring spectrum in the provision of broadband services, and that AT&T cannot use the Qualcomm spectrum in a way that deprives other providers of the benefits of the Commission’s roaming rules," it says.

Earlier this week, AT&T abandoned plans to take over T-Mobile after realizing that the FCC was highly unlikely to approve the deal on the grounds that it would damage competition.