AT&T Buys Spectrum For 3G, LTE Networks

The deal will enable the carrier to boost its existing 3G networks and transition to 4G networks based on Long-Term Evolution technology.

Marin Perez, Contributor

September 18, 2009

2 Min Read

AT&T will purchase 24 licenses for wireless spectrum from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen for an undisclosed amount in order to boost its mobile data network.

Allen agreed to sell the wireless spectrum licenses, which cover large portions of Oregon and Washington, through his Vulcan Spectrum company. The licenses include the C-block segment in the 700-Mhz frequency, which can cover large areas and penetrate through walls.

AT&T, the second-largest U.S. carrier, said it would be using this spectrum to meet growing customer demand for mobile data, as well as for transitioning to its 4G network based on Long-Term Evolution technology.

In a filing with the Federal Communications Commission, AT&T and Vulcan said the deal would not adversely affect competition in the region because "there will be a continuing presence of multiple other substantial carriers in each overlap market with the capability to add subscribers and the ability to add capacity." The FCC still needs to approve the deal before it is completed.

The move is the latest attempt by AT&T to beef up its mobile data network, as the company is deploying additional spectrum and investing up to $18 billion this year, much of which is going to wireless infrastructure.

These efforts could potentially quell the complaints from a small, but vocal, group of iPhone users regarding its data network quality. The iPhone has become a major driver of new subscribers for AT&T, and keeping these customers satisfied could be crucial once the iPhone becomes available on other carriers.

AT&T is in the midst of upgrading its 3G network to High Speed Packet Access 7.2 technology, which effectively doubles the potential download speed. The HSPA 7.2 upgrade is expected to be completed by 2011, and the wireless operator will then begin deploying LTE networks.

While AT&T busy ramping up its 3G network, rival Verizon Wireless is laying out aggressive plans for its 4G network. Verizon plans to have its LTE networks running in 25 to 30 markets by the end of next year, and it expects to have nationwide coverage by 2015.

Part of the growth in the smartphone market will be for enterprise use, and this can quickly bring up multiple questions about security and mobility policies. InformationWeek analyzed how businesses can lock down data when it's on the move, and the report can be downloaded here (registration required).

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