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FCC Approves AT&T's $1.9 Billion Qualcomm Spectrum Purchase 52

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-needs-tmobile-anyway dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has granted approval for AT&T to buy Qualcomm's wireless spectrum licenses for $1.925 billion. The FCC admitted to having some 'competitive concerns' about letting AT&T snap up such a large swath of spectrum licenses, but were satisfied by simply imposing a number of conditions to prohibit interference on neighboring bands. They also said the deal facilitates their goal of 'expanding mobile broadband deployment throughout the country.'"
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FCC Approves AT&T's $1.9 Billion Qualcomm Spectrum Purchase

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  • So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SJHillman (1966756) on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:48PM (#38473270)
    So... what does this mean for consumers? Better AT&T coverage? Cheaper wireless? Somehow I get the feeling the opposite is going to happen...
    • Re:So... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Kenja (541830) on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:50PM (#38473286)
      At a guess, it means 1.925 billion dollars of hidden fees spread out across all the AT&T users.
      • by jc42 (318812)

        It presumably also mean an extension of some of the industry's crappiest "customer support" to that part of the spectrum.

        What I wonder is: Where is Lily Tomlin when we need her?

      • by Idbar (1034346)
        Or something a la Netflix:
        This is great news, you'll have almost one more bar [1], and your phone plans will only cost twice as much!




        [1] In certain locations where concentration of people is less than on per sq. mile.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Linsaran (728833)
      The plan is that they'll be able to provide better LTE based mobile broadband. But then no plan ever survived contact with the enemy.
      If you want cheap wireless, you're not using one of the big 4 companies anyways. If you want better coverage, well voice coverage is probably already about as good as it's gonna get, the costs to provide coverage to the 1% of people who aren't already saturated are proportunately not worth the return, and Data coverage is more focused on providing faster speeds in key marke
      • by dokebi (624663)

        Unlike 3G, 4G (LTE) networks can carry both data and voice on the same channel, as well as being more spectrum efficient. It would be wise for ATT to deploy LTE as fast as they can while removing the less efficient 3G phones from the market. This means eventually LTE would be deployed everywhere, and whet it does, even the dumb phones will use LTE for voice, leaving much more room for data for others.

        • by Linsaran (728833)

          Unlike 3G, 4G (LTE) networks can carry both data and voice on the same channel, as well as being more spectrum efficient. It would be wise for ATT to deploy LTE as fast as they can while removing the less efficient 3G phones from the market. This means eventually LTE would be deployed everywhere, and whet it does, even the dumb phones will use LTE for voice, leaving much more room for data for others.

          See my above comment about no plan ever surviving contact with the enemy.

          How long did it take to fully phase out AMPS after TDMA and CDMA cell phones became common place? There are plenty of people (particularly the elderly who are 'set in their ways') that are STILL using TDMA or early generation CDMA devices. While LTE might be the ultimate goal, it'll be years before it can be implemented. This spectrum purchase is a step in that direction, but at this point who knows if that's where we'll end up,

        • by segin (883667)
          AT&T's 3G network can potentially put voice and data in the same channel, with good spectral efficiency over standard 3GPP Release 99/Release 4 UMTS W-CDMA CS voice by deploying CSoHS, AKA Circuit-Switched Voice Service over High Speed Packet Access (CS voice packets are placed on top of the layer 2 MAC protocol, and not IP, thus not a VoIP implementation), introduced in 3GPP Releases 7 and 8.
      • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by StikyPad (445176) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:51PM (#38474088) Homepage

        Frankly the spectrum is why AT&T wanted t-mobile in the first place, and since that deal fell through this is the next best thing for them.

        Frankly I don't think that's true. Spectrum is what they need, but the dominant market position is what they want. The T-Mobile acquisition would have made them the largest carrier overnight for a paltry $30B and given them the spectrum they needed to boot, while this $1B deal gives them spectrum for less than the penalties on the T-Mobile deal falling through. I think it's a clear indication that spectrum was *not* the primary motivation for their attempted buyout, but we all knew that.

    • Re:So... (Score:4, Informative)

      by dokebi (624663) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:25PM (#38473722)

      The spectrum is about 6MHz wide across the country, and 12MHz in NY, Boston, Philly, SF, and LA, in the 700Mhz band. Because of the narrow channel, this spectrum is most likely to deploy LTE (4G) networks outside these areas. It would possible to deploy 3G networks on this spectrum in those four areas, but I would guess not because 4G is more spectrum efficient than 3G.

      So, unless you have an LTE phone, it wouldn't improve your coverage.

      Verizon has been very aggressive in buying larger, contiguous chunks of spectrum (>10Mhz wide) in the last decade, even if they had to pay more money to get them. T-mobile got some (that's why ATT wanted to buy them), but AT&T often sat out (or was out bid). Based on just that, I would guess Verizon's coverage would be better for the next decade.

      In fact, I have noticed AT&T has a history of under investing in their infrastructure in the last decade. Instead of planning ahead, they defer infrastructure upgrades until the last minute, which costs more but get less return (or no return, in the case of T-mobile acquisition). YMMV.

      • by segin (883667)
        AT&T would not deploy 3G services in these bands. That would involve not only deploying new base stations, but brand new phones, as no UMTS device they have to market to date supports UMTS in the 700MHz bands. As far as I know, no such phone exists at all, period. Their current lineup of phones usually support dual-band or tri-band UMTS, with 850MHz and 1900MHz being common, and the original 2100MHz UMTS band appearing in some "super world phones" (such as the LG CU-515; as their standard "world phones"
    • by jonbryce (703250)

      I would guess better coverage, but you have to pay more for it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:52PM (#38473312)

    "We had concerns about AT&T not competing, but when we realized how big the bribes they paid us and our appointing politicians were, we decided to let the deal go ahead anyways"

  • by Capt James McCarthy (860294) on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:52PM (#38473324) Journal

    Ma Bell! You were gone for quite a while.

  • by DaMattster (977781) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:15PM (#38473590)
    Now, AT&T can quit whining or lying about not having enough spectrum to build out its LTE network. I'd never give AT&T a dime of my money even if their network was faster than T-Mobile's. Simply on principle alone, I will be staying with T-Mobile for some time to come.
  • So this is the consolation prize?

    • That's a stupid idea... AT&T would have gotten approval for this spectrum purchase WITHOUT the Tmo debacle. See that Verizon is probably getting approval for a large $3+B spectrum purchase from the cablecos.

      The idea that the Tmo debacle, for which AT&T is paying $4B for its FAILURE, was a strategy to get this $2B spectrum purchase approved is just silly... (total price tag of $6B? lol)

  • that the bureaucrats are going to be paid off to look the other way on instead of ya know actually enforcing?

  • Between this $2B spectrum purchase by AT&T and the $3+B spectrum purchase from the cablecos by Verizon, it is quite clear (if it wasn't before), that we in the US are lumbering towards a wireless duopoly, held by the former BabyBells. Sprint and Tmobile (if it will exist in the near future, which it probably won't), are all but doomed -- there is no way they will be able to effectively compete, nevermind survival a direct squeeze/war by the BabyBells, if and when they choose (probably under some Repub a

    • the coming duopoly of the Baby Bells, also the prime holders of the cellular bands (850Mhz), drives home the answer to the question posed in the '90's:

      Can upstart carriers who did not benefit from the massive cellular band giveway survive and overcome the market and technical obstacles presented by the spectrum resources they could acquire. Just how much of a headstart and intrinsic advantage did the cellular carriers get?

      Through a gradual series of buyouts and mergers, the BabyBells (AT&T and Verizon)

  • No one company should own any kind of spectrum for communications. It should be *licensed* from the government, with licensing fees paid yearly.
    Multiple companies can use the same spectrum for the same purpose. Hell, the towers used today ought to be considered standard infrastructure like utility lines, telephone lines, etc... Revert to common carrier status and anyone can use anyone else's - that way all the different companies can invest in upgrading, all using the same protocols, same bandwidth, et

    • Agreed. The spectrum belongs to the public and private companies should not be allowed to buy and sell it.
    • No one company should own any kind of spectrum for communications. It should be *licensed* from the government, with licensing fees paid yearly.
      Multiple companies can use the same spectrum for the same purpose. Hell, the towers used today ought to be considered standard infrastructure like utility lines, telephone lines, etc... Revert to common carrier status and anyone can use anyone else's - that way all the different companies can invest in upgrading, all using the same protocols, same bandwidth, etc... Then it wouldn't be nearly as expensive as each company maintaining their own...

      Sheesh - they did it 30+ years ago with telephone companies... Time to do it again with cellular companies...

      "owns" *means* licensed from the gov't now...

      I don't see what you mean about landlines, which *are* owned by only a few large carriers.

      Mostly I don't see what you mean by multiple carriers can use the same spectrum. And SOME POINT or level of granularity, there has to be exclusivity of use. Even Ethernet works that way. Only ONE carrier signal can be running at that level of granularity, be it in time, space, frequency band, locality, etc. Therefore there MUST be SOME amount of dividing up between the carri

  • 1889: AT&T becomes the overall holding company for all the Bell companies.

    30 December 1899: American Bell Telephone Company is purchased by its own long-distance subsidiary, American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) to bypass state regulations limiting capitalization. AT&T assumes leadership role of the Bell System.

    1974 Bell System Divesture (Collapse of a monopoly)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_System_divestiture [wikipedia.org]

    1995 Southwestern Bell Corp. became SBC Communications

    2000 Bell Atlantic —

  • Ah, so AT&T gets what they wanted out of the T-Mobile deal - more spectrum can be substituted for more towers as far as capacity goes, except they're going to need to get new handset hardware deployed. But, perhaps that's cheaper, including the penalty payment to T-Mobile, than actually buying T-Mobile.

    Cheaper in the face of government obstruction, anyway.

  • by SeaFox (739806) on Friday December 23, 2011 @03:26PM (#38474572)

    Well now, this is a significantly cheaper way to get more spectrum than buying out T-Mobile. That is the reason why you said you needed to be allowed to buy them, right AT&T? Didn't you say that was the only way to deal with your lack of frequencies for all your customers? There was no other way?

    Good thing you had this second chance to approach the problem the find another solution. I'm sure you're happy with all the money you saved doing it this way, too.

    • I remember reading an article during the opening phase of the purchase. In it; it stated that should AT&T spend the $30B to upgrade their network, etc. It would be vastly superior to their rivals in any form. Which is why the red flags went up. As proven, this was about eliminating competition and eventually an assumed increase in prices. The cost of the $30B merger would have been offset by the increase in the X millions of customers that Tmobile has. Not to mention that AT&T had planned to phase o

  • .....AT&T Oligarchs instead resort to an Iron curtain and fear driven domination over QUAL-COMMIES.
  • So this is the consolation prize for not winning T-Mobile (and that hot T-Mobile girl).

    Of course the real cost here is $1.925B + $4B deal breaker fee to T-Mobile. Buy that girl a new pair of heels.

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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