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AT&T acquiesces, says goodbye to Band 17


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From GigaOM:

 

AT&T has given in to the growing pressure from the small operators and the Federal Communications Commission to support interoperability on LTE devices. That means that in the future the same phones and gadgets that work on AT&T’s LTE networks will work on the networks of dozens of regional and rural carriers launching LTE in 700 MHz band.

 

In a post on Ma Bell’s policy blog, AT&T federal regulatory VP Joan Marsh said that AT&T has reached a consensus with the FCC and other carriers to support Band 12 devices, which covers both the 700 MHz spectrum owned by small carriers and the neighboring airwaves AT&T uses its growing nationwide LTE network.

 

Marsh didn’t give a specific time frame for when it would achieve full interoperability, and to be honest it might take some time before the same smartphones will be able to cross network boundaries. AT&T spent a lot of effort over the years creating its own boutique band in 700 MHz (Band 17), and device makers tailored their phones for its network. For instance the iPhone 5s and 5c announced today will work on AT&T’s networks but not on U.S. Cellular’s or C Spire’s, even though they’re supposedly sharing the same band...

 

Interesting excerpt from the AT&T public policy blog post:

 

“AT&T, for its part, has committed to investing considerable time and resources to the modification of its 700 MHz LTE network through the implementation of a newly-standardized software feature. That effort will allow AT&T’s network to support Band 12 capable devices. AT&T has also committed to working collaboratively with its chipset partners and OEMs to introduce, within a reasonable time frame, new Band 12 capable devices into its device portfolio.

 

Details are thin on what that "software feature" is, or how it works to remove Ch. 51- 700 MHz B-block interference that the smaller carriers deny is even present. Also, if it's true that AT&T has been investing "considerable time" in modifying it's 700 MHz LTE equipment, you'd think they'd have tipped off Google (Nexus 5) or Apple (iPhone 5C/S) about that. Still, this seems like a step in the right direction toward LTE roaming, or at least a step away from further industry consolidation.

 

Telecompetitor also has some nice maps that give an overview of where the major players own A and B block spectrum, and make the good point that after the upcoming 600 MHz incentive auctions, DTV Channel 51 will be the first to be cleared, rendering the A block interference controversy moot, and Band 17 entirely redundant. Perhaps that is why AT&T is making this move now.

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Telecompetitor also has some nice maps that give an overview of where the major players own A and B block spectrum, and make the good point that after the upcoming 600 MHz incentive auctions, DTV Channel 51 will be the first to be cleared, rendering the A block interference controversy moot, and Band 17 entirely redundant. Perhaps that is why AT&T is making this move now.

 

Nice find on the Telecompetitor article. Even if you are interested in wireless communication there are always articles that slip through the cracks. This is why I enjoy S4GRU.

 

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Translation:

AT&T decided that as it buys rural operators, it would be too costly to offer replacement handsets and more efficient to offer interoperability and offer additional spectrum that AT&T can use.

 

Yep, they decided that since Channel 51 problem will go away with the 600MHz auction, they should start rounding up rural block A operators. Between Lower 700MHz Block A, B, and C, and then D &E, they might not even need to participate in the 600MHz auction.

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Yep, they decided that since Channel 51 problem will go away with the 600MHz auction, they should start rounding up rural block A operators. Between Lower 700MHz Block A, B, and C, and then D &E, they might not even need to participate in the 600MHz auction.

 

Soon enough, we may be able to call the Lower 700 MHz band just "Ma Bell's band of thugs."

 

T-Mobile seemed to be eyeing the potential of the Lower 700 MHz A block after DT channel 51 goes away.  This may throw a wrench into those machinations.

 

AJ

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Soon enough, we may be able to call the Lower 700 MHz band just "Ma Bell's band of thugs."

 

T-Mobile seemed to be eyeing the potential of the Lower 700 MHz A block after DT channel 51 goes away.  This may throw a wrench into those machinations.

 

AJ

 

They better act fast then! I think Sprint is going to wait for the 600MHz auction.

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and actually stop the big two death stars from gobbiling up every frequencey

 

I'm not for more government intervention here.  AT&T is trying to compete where they can as any American business in their shoes would.  It's an American company vs a Japanese company we're dealing with now.  

 

Softbank can hold their own with their massive spectrum holdings.   

Edited by GinaDee
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I have found some more information on the "software update" AT&T is applying to its network:

 

AT&T’s current 700 MHz LTE network, which is expected to provide coverage to nearly 270 million consumers in 400 markets by the end of 2013, currently supports only Band 17 devices. Band 12 support on AT&T’s network will require that AT&T deploy a new network technology that will permit simultaneous support of both Band 12 and Band 17 devices. Absent this dual support, millions of pre-existing Band 17 devices currently in use by AT&T’s customers would be stranded.

 

To achieve this, AT&T must develop, implement and deploy throughout its network Multi-Frequency Band Indicator or MFBI capabilities. MFBI will permit AT&T’s network to operate simultaneously as both a Band 12 and Band 17 network and to support devices in both bands. This feature was recently standardized, and as with any new significant feature, deployment will require lab regression testing of the new major software release that will contain it, lab testing of the feature and its functionality, and field testing that includes extensive testing with existing Band 17 legacy devices as well as new prototype Band 12 devices. Additionally, testing of both types of devices with various carrier aggregation capabilities operating simultaneously with the MFBI feature will need to be completed.

 

Once testing is complete, AT&T will need to deploy the MFBI feature throughout its network and will not be able to fully support new Band 12 devices until full deployment is complete. At a minimum, AT&T must complete field testing of the new MFBI feature before it can test any new device with Band 12 capabilities, which in turn will allow for the introduction of Band 12 capable devices.

 

Source: FCC

 

While AT&T's initial blog post suggested that this MFBI deployment was well underway, it turns out that it's barely started. They have given themselves two years to roll it out, meaning that we shouldn't expect to see AT&T to sell or permit network access to Band 12 devices before September 30, 2015.

 

That's a long wait, but it may be worth it:

 

Once MFBI has been fully implemented by AT&T consistent with paragraph 2, AT&T shall provide LTE roaming to carriers with compatible Band 12 devices, consistent with the FCC’s rules on roaming.

 

:D

 

Sprint Galaxy S7 or Nexus 5 (2015 edition) with Band 12, anyone? It would sure be funny to roam on VZW for voice while on AT&T for data.

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Why?  They are not required to sign LTE data roaming agreements.  VZW and AT&T can just pull up the ladder and try to starve out the other operators.

 

AJ

Actually, yes they are. The FCC's data roaming mandate requires them to do so on fair terms for all parties involved. Admittedly, what is "fair" isn't well defined, but it is clear that LTE is included in that mandate.

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Actually, yes they are. The FCC's data roaming mandate requires them to do so on fair terms for all parties involved. Admittedly, what is "fair" isn't well defined, but it is clear that LTE is included in that mandate.

If they don't define fair then it's kinda pointless. It's like a parent telling a child to "play nice."

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Actually, yes they are. The FCC's data roaming mandate requires them to do so on fair terms for all parties involved. Admittedly, what is "fair" isn't well defined, but it is clear that LTE is included in that mandate.

 

I had forgotten that FCC mandate actually made it through in the past few years.  But has it passed a court challenge yet?  If not, VZW and AT&T will be licking their chops to try to get it struck down.

 

AJ

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I had forgotten that FCC mandate actually made it through in the past few years.  But has it passed a court challenge yet?  If not, VZW and AT&T will be licking their chops to try to get it struck down.

 

AJ

 

I believe the mandate in question was upheld last December.

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I had forgotten that FCC mandate actually made it through in the past few years.  But has it passed a court challenge yet?  If not, VZW and AT&T will be licking their chops to try to get it struck down.

 

AJ

 

I believe the mandate in question was upheld last December.

Yep. It was upheld by the courts, so it is valid. It went into full effect in January.

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