Old Whine in New Bottles

Posted by: Joan Marsh on April 29, 2015 at 10:36 am

A group of competitive carriers led by Sprint and T-Mobile have formed a new coalition but, based on the group’s opening advocacy salvo, I don’t expect much in the way of any new or insightful arguments.  For example, they have revived the old myth that AT&T and Verizon were awarded half of their low band spectrum “for free” – a claim that has been so thoroughly refuted I’m surprised it’s still treated as news.

But it is.  So, it’s time for some old fashioned fact-checking.

Contrary to claims that much of AT&T’s low-frequency spectrum holdings were given to AT&T in the mid-1980s, the fact is that AT&T acquired nearly 97 percent of its low-frequency spectrum at auction or through secondary market transactions.  AT&T’s ultimate predecessor, Southwestern Bell, was originally assigned Cellular B-block licenses in only a small number of license areas covering portions of only five states.  As of last May, when AT&T filed a detailed ex parte on this issue, those original licenses represented about 3.5 percent of the low-frequency spectrum AT&T held in the top 100 cellular market areas (CMAs – as measured by MHz-POPs), and only about 3.3 percent of AT&T’s total low-frequency spectrum in all CMAs.

AT&T acquired the rest of its 850 MHz licenses through a $41 billion dollar transaction with AT&T Wireless, even larger transactions with Ameritech and BellSouth, and numerous purchases from a number of other companies.  AT&T acquired its Lower 700 MHz spectrum through its $6.6 billion of winning bids in Auction 73 – an auction in which Sprint and T-Mobile were eligible to participate, but did not – as well as billions of dollars of additional spectrum-only acquisitions from a variety of companies that won spectrum in the Commission’s 700 MHz auctions but decided to sell it for a profit as opposed to build it out.  Indeed, many of those companies are small carriers that are now complaining about the lack of low band holdings.  We’ve blogged about that as well.

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AT&T Statement on FCC’s
3.5 GHz Spectrum Sharing Order

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on April 17, 2015 at 11:51 am

The following statement may be attributed to an AT&T spokesperson:

“AT&T applauds the FCC for adopting today’s 3.5 GHz order that will make more spectrum available for mobile broadband use.  The Commission has taken an innovative approach in the band to facilitate spectrum sharing with incumbent government users. We look forward to the Second Further Notice as the Commission continues to explore how CBRS licensees will use this spectrum while sharing it in an opportunistic manner.”

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AT&T Statement on the Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on April 16, 2015 at 4:18 pm

Today, Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI ) introduced the Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2015 to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The following statement may be attributed to Tim McKone, AT&T Executive Vice President of Federal Relations:

“We commend Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orin Hatch and Senator Wyden and Congressman Ryan for their efforts to introduce a bipartisan bill that will update and renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). We believe the passing of this legislation will align 21st century trade agreements with 21st century TPA rules.  Taking this critical step forward will strengthen our U.S trade policy to ensure new trade agreements provide us with the opportunity to further U.S. economic growth and investment.  We look forward to working with the Congress and the Administration in order to advance U.S. trade agreements.”

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The White Space Black Hole

Posted by: Joan Marsh on April 2, 2015 at 12:09 pm

In 2008, in the wake of the 700 MHz auction, Google held a conference call to reveal its plans for “Wi-Fi on steroids” – a broadband wireless service to be delivered coast to coast via unlicensed white space devices, all in time for the 2009 Christmas holiday.  I remember reading a blog comment around that time mocking AT&T and Verizon for “wasting” billions of dollars on licensed spectrum in the 700 MHz auction when troves of valuable unlicensed spectrum would soon be available for free.

In 2010, the FCC adopted white space rules that white space supporters argued set the stage for the next generation of wireless technologies to emerge.  One reporter declared that “there is no stopping the white space gold rush that is about to begin.”

It’s now 2015.  The licensed 700 MHz allocations that were sold in 2008 have been the bedrock for billions of dollars of investment in wireless networks that now form the catalyst for U.S. leadership in LTE wireless technologies.  And hundreds of millions of U.S. consumers now enjoy 4G LTE wireless services as a result of those investments.

On the white spaces front, an Internet search reveals only a scattering of small scale white spaces tests and deployments, with even less information available about the scope or success of those efforts.

Perhaps the most insightful evidence of white space activity comes from an emergency petition on the White Space Database recently filed by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).  From this petition we learn two critical facts.  First, after five years of effort, there are fewer than 1,000 devices registered in the database.  Apparently the gold rush was not even a trickle.

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Time for Special Access

Posted by: Frank Simone on March 23, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Net neutrality clearly dominated the Congressional hearings last week.  But it wasn’t the only issue FCC Commissioners were asked about, and it’s also not the only issue that remains in limbo after nearly a decade.  Late last month marked the filing deadline for responses to the latest chapter in the FCC’s special access proceeding – its mandatory data request. For the past 10 years, the Commission has been looking into the competitiveness of the special access marketplace and this latest data request is meant to give the FCC what it needs to conclude this proceeding.  After ten years, it can certainly be said that a lot of time and money has been spent in pursuit of figuring out whether the marketplace for 1.5 Mbps services (which did not meet the FCC’s definition for broadband services before the Commission upped those speeds to 25 Mbps last month btw) is truly in need of further regulation.  This latest request for data was by far the most time consuming and expensive given the sheer number of hours the industry, and AT&T in particular, exhausted to collect and submit the enormous volume of information requested as part of the Commission’s quest for special access nirvana.

To be clear, AT&T supports the notion that the Commission should actually have data before it takes action (unlike the non-data driven decision in 2012 to suspend the pricing flexibility rules in advance of going on this particular expedition).  The network data collected here no doubt will show that, where special access demand is concentrated, there exists an abundance of competitive alternatives to the incumbent provider.  And while the volume of nationwide facilities data collected will be sizable due to the highly competitive market for special access services, the information provided likely can be analyzed in a reasonable period of time.

But as AT&T has outlined in the record of this proceeding, the same cannot be said for the data collection requests concerning monthly pricing information at the circuit and rate element level that the Commission intends to use as the basis for analyzing existing special access prices.  Anyone familiar with telecom billing systems understands just how difficult this task can be, especially when the request involves tens of millions of circuits deployed nationwide across multiple holding companies with multiple similar, but not the same, billing systems.  As well as the numerous affiliated companies, each with their own unique billing systems.  The inevitable inconsistencies in the data among the range of providers, competitive and incumbent, submitting pricing data will make any effort by the Commission to rationalize this data at the circuit level extremely difficult, if not impractical.

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