FCC Approves AT&T Purchase of Qualcomm "Underutilized" Spectrum

December 27, 2011

Washington - Dec 22, 2011 - The FCC has approved the purchase transaction by AT&T Mobility of unused spectrum from Qualcomm Inc. The approval came several days after AT&T withdrew its plan to buy T-Mobile/USA.

The licenses at issue cover more than 300 million people nationwide. Specifically, Qualcomm holds the lower 700MHz D and E block licenses (6MHz each) in five of the top 15 metropolitan areas (New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco), covering more than 70 million people. Qualcomm also holds lower 700MHz D block licenses that cover more than 230 million people across the rest of the United States.

AT&T and Qualcomm made the case (in February 2011) that this transaction would enable AT&T to repurpose Qualcomm's underutilized spectrum for the implementation of so-called cutting-edge broadband services that are most demanded by customers. The applicants stated that AT&T plans to use supplemental downlink technology (also referred to as carrier aggregation technology) to couple this unpaired spectrum with paired spectrum that AT&T already holds. Once compatible handsets and network equipment are developed, this will, according to the applicants, allow AT&T to provide a more robust wireless broadband service over its new LTE network.

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