Print 18 comment(s) - last by Adonlude.. on Dec 22 at 5:41 PM

The newly purchased spectrum had formerly been the property of Qualcomm, who used it with FLO TV.  (Source: Slashgear)
Spectrum covers 300 million people nationwide in the U.S.

AT&T reports that it has just completed a deal to provide what will be a crucial component of its 4G bid.  It will purchase a portion of the lower 700 MHz spectrum formerly occupied by Qualcomm's FLO TV service.  The spectrum will beef of AT&T's existing 700 MHz holdings.  The new spectrum will offer coverage of 300 million Americans, and come at a pretty penny for AT&T -- $1.925B USD.

Sprint was the first U.S. carrier to deploy a true 4G network, with its ever-expanding WiMAX network.  It remains the only network to offer true 4G smart phones (rival T-Mobile offers pseudo-4G HSPA+ smart phones, a tech experts refer to as "3.5G"). 

However, the race is heating up, with Verizon formally announcing its first 4G network rollout, which will initially feature broadband cards, and then expanding to smart phones later in 2011.  With Verizon -- the largest U.S. carrier -- pushing its new 4G LTE network, the pressure is on AT&T to follow in suit.

AT&T will also be relying on the LTE technology, a crucial shift from the 3G generation, in which Verizon adopted CDMA and AT&T adopted the rival GSM technology.  AT&T, like Verizon, hopes to have 4G devices out in 2011, but has been less specific about its plans.

Independent tests have shown that the company has long held an edge over Verizon in the service quality and speeds of its data network.  However, if it does not act quickly, Verizon's shiny 4G powers may allow it to boot AT&T to second place.  That would be a major problem for AT&T, given that it's used its data network prowess as a key selling point to customers.

Fortunately for AT&T and its customers, the network appears determined not to let that happen.

An AT&T spokesperson, Seth Bloom, tells us:
This move will bolster AT&T’s ability to provide an advanced 4G mobile broadband experience for its customers in the years ahead.

As part of our longer-term 4G network plans, AT&T intends to deploy this spectrum as supplemental downlink, using carrier aggregation technology. This technology is designed to deliver substantial capacity gains and is expected to be enabled with the completion of 3GPP Release 10.

AT&T delivers the best mobile broadband experience today, and we’re committed to doing so tomorrow.
The purchase follows Qualcomm's October decision to pull the plug on its FLO TV service.  Qualcomm has suspended its device sales, but will continue to support the service into March 2011.  AT&T comments, "Our decision to bid on the spectrum was independent of that decision."

It sounds like AT&T may bear good news for FLO customers, too.  Asked if AT&T would provide service to existing FLO device owners, the spokesperson states, "We’re finalizing those details now and plan to communicate with customers directly beginning early next year. Again, our first priority is to work one-on-one with these customers and answer all of their questions. Service is expected to continue as normal through March."

AT&T's Mobile TV service currently is powered by FLO, so the pair already have cooperated in the past. The service is currently offered for $9.99/month on the LG Vu Plus, Sharp FX, and Samsung Mythic -- all of which run proprietary operating systems.

The deal still has to go through standard regulatory checks by the likes of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission.  Assuming it clears, AT&T should gain full access to the spectrum in mid-2011.

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Call Quality
By mdbrotha on 12/20/2010 12:56:53 PM , Rating: 5
Independent tests have shown that the company has long held an edge over Verizon in the service quality and speeds of its data network.

Speed yes, service quality Don't think so.

RE: Call Quality
By apinkel on 12/20/2010 1:43:37 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah, that comment stuck out for me as well... it's really only talking up the good part about AT&T's service and is glossing over the fact that they seriously need to improve their coverage and reliability.

Both Verizon and Sprint have better coverage then AT&T (sensorly is a great website to view the actual coverage of the big 4 carriers). AT&T has a number of advantages (the iphone being the biggest currently, faster 3G speeds, ability to use 3G while on a call) but they need to move swiftly on 4G to stay in the game.

RE: Call Quality
By rudy on 12/20/2010 4:22:20 PM , Rating: 2
I have been told that the reason ATT is fast is because they just deny connections in bad areas or edge areas of their network. This stemmed from the old least dropped calls campaign. The would just not allow calls unless people had a pretty decent signal. So their coverage is bad because they are not covering areas that are at the fringe of their towers service. This would have the same effect of increased average speed for data if they run this same scam.

This reminds me of comcast boost technology where they give you a boost in speed and it makes their speeds look really good on band width tests but it is not sustained. It is all a game to manipulate statistics.

RE: Call Quality
By AlexWade on 12/20/2010 2:24:02 PM , Rating: 2
I do expect AT&T's cellular service to get better once they start deploying 700 MHz phones. As it is now, some markets are 850 MHz and some are 1900 MHz. Lower frequencies penetrate buildings better.

If AT&T wireless was smart, which they are not, they would push deployment of 700 MHz as fast as possible and offer free phone upgrades, without extending the contract.

RE: Call Quality
By cditty on 12/20/2010 5:09:58 PM , Rating: 2
Yep, I am in an 850 3G market and we have great signal penetration into buildings. It is far better than what we had before the 3G build out.

AT&T was penny wise, pound foolish
By Lord 666 on 12/20/2010 12:51:48 PM , Rating: 3
When the spectrum went up for sale, they missed the boat on the volume required. Only VZW did it correctly, but was laughed at with their 6 billion investment.

Fast forward and it is clear who is playing catch up still.

RE: AT&T was penny wise, pound foolish
By namechamps on 12/20/2010 1:22:08 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. Verizon license is the Boardwalk & Parkplace of frequency licenses.

20Mhz (most others are 5Mhz or 10Mhz) blocks, continuous, and nationwide.

The same 20Mhz frequency covers every single inch of the United States.

The other networks will need to deploy a hodgepodge of frequencies, and those frequencies will vary based on geography, and if they need 20Mhz of frequency per cell tower slice they will need to bolt together a bunch of diverse frequencies.

From a logistical standpoint Verizon is the winner. They can play it however they wan't.
* use lower logistical cost to undercut competitors
* use higher frequency range to offer higher/faster/more service at a premium pricepoint.
* use lower cost of each tower to build more towers and thus offer more complete coverage at the same cost.

Win-win-win. They are holding the winning cards and can play them depending on what the market wants.

By mcnabney on 12/20/2010 9:28:08 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with everything you said, however AT&T is getting a really good deal.

They just bought 6mhz coast-to-coast and 12mhz in a few large cities. They also paid less than a third what Verizon paid for their spectrum. So in many ways Verizon was smart to buy everything they needed all at once, but AT&T was smart because they were able to get a pretty good deal out of Qualcom and their otherwise useless spectrum that was acquired for the failed FLOtv service.

Isn't LTE technically 3G and not 4G
By BZDTemp on 12/20/2010 2:11:05 PM , Rating: 2
Just saying I know the marketing people will hate this.

RE: Isn't LTE technically 3G and not 4G
By cjohnson2136 on 12/20/2010 2:17:50 PM , Rating: 2
I am not sure on this I thought LTE was considered 4G not just by marketing people but by tech people I could be wrong. What actually defines it as 4G vs 3G?

By namechamps on 12/20/2010 3:30:20 PM , Rating: 2
According to the ITU 4G is 100Mbps speeds to mobile target and 1Gbps speeds to stationary target as well as various other technical requirements such as all IP networks (including voice as VOIP), spectral efficiency of at least 15 bits/s/Hz.

LTE doesn't and likely never will achieve those benchmarks so it is more like a high level 3G solution (say 3.5 or 3.9) however the marketing folks have decided that it is "4G".

LTE-Advanced is a sucessor to LTE and should achieve "4G" benchmarks. Likely since by then we will be on so-called "4G" networks the marketing folks will call it "5G" instead.

True 4G?
By tech4tac on 12/20/2010 2:18:33 PM , Rating: 2
Sprint was the first U.S. carrier to deploy a true 4G network, with its ever-expanding WiMAX network. It remains the only network to offer true 4G smart phones (rival T-Mobile offers pseudo-4G HSPA+ smart phones, a tech experts refer to as "3.5G").

It all depends on who you ask. If you ask the ITU, none of the current carrier offerings, now or in the near feature, are true 4G. LTE and WiMax in there current implementation are pre-4G and not 4G as they do not meet the minimum bandwidth requirements (100Mb/s mobile, 1Gb/s stationary). LTE Advanced and the next generation of WiMax will be true 4G.

That being said, it's great to see all the major carriers getting the LTE ball rolling.

RE: True 4G?
By diskoman69 on 12/21/2010 9:17:05 PM , Rating: 2
Thank you for stating this as I for one am tired of hearing the propaganda. WiMax is NOT true 4G. Neither is LTE, and the next generation of either tech will likely roll out in 2012 or 13.

For that matter, T-Mobile now has an upgrade path for HSPA+ that will take it to 42Mbps next year all the way to 168Mbps. The tech will actually extend all the way out to over 600Mbps (but this will require a hardware expense similar to what the other 3 carriers are spending now for LTE & WiMax - they can get to 168Mbps at a much lower expense though). The ITU's definition does NOT define the tech used, just the speed, etc.

This constant downgrading of T-Mobile for passing on this generation of tech bewilders me. If they can get the same results as the other carriers by simply maturing their existing tech how in the world is that a BAD thing? In addition, because they are just using a more mature version of an already global standard this reduces costs in their phones (data will just be slower on most other networks); an additional radio is not neccessary. Their pricing is already very competitive so this business decision should let them continue to be agressive in this area. From where I stand that's a win-win for T-Mobile and their consumers. Newer is not necessarily BETTER, and T-Mobile will be able to continue to match or beat their competitors data speeds for at least the near future (say through 2013-14).

nationwide coverage?
By DanNeely on 12/20/2010 3:15:13 PM , Rating: 2
Most of the E block was originally bought by Echostar (via Frontier Wireless) qualcom only bought a few parts along the coasts. Did qualcom have other spectrum with nationwide coverage as well? If not I don't see where the 300m customer number is coming from unless echostar sold their block to someone else. I haven't seen anything about what, if anything echostar, is doing with their acquisition...

RE: nationwide coverage?
By DanNeely on 12/21/2010 6:56:39 AM , Rating: 2
... and they did. The FCC used A-D in a prior 700mhz auction, as well as in the 08 auction. Qualcomm's D block came from that acquisition.

By Jeff7181 on 12/21/2010 6:05:02 AM , Rating: 2
What does this mean for current iPhone 4 owners?

RE: Soooooo...
By DanNeely on 12/21/2010 9:59:00 AM , Rating: 2
Nothing until they buy an iPhone 5/6 with support for the extra bands. In theory Apple could add support for them in the iPhone 5; but since ATT won't be using the spectrum for a while yet might wait until the 6.

By Adonlude on 12/22/2010 5:41:29 PM , Rating: 2
I alwyas laugh when I hear about people owning things like the ability to create electromagnetic waves that oscillate at specific rates.

Can I buy all longitudinal waves between 5-25kHz so I don't have to listen to people with high pitched voices?

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner

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