We have a couple of promising developments for you—and the wireless industry as a whole, really. In meetings yesterday, the FCC took small but positive steps towards legalizing two propositions set to give us customers more 4G LTE options, and more interoperability. The first concerns Dish Network’s unused spectrum in the 2GHz band, the second concerns T-Mobile’s request that the FCC require interoperability on all US 700MHz LTE networks.
First, with regard to Dish, the FCC has agreed to consider and investigate the possibility and ramifications of Dish using its 40Mhz chunk of 2GHz spectrum to build out a LTE network. Currently the spectrum is assigned to be used for what Dish does best—satellite. The spectrum is unused right now because Dish completed the purchase of it just this month for a whopping $3 billion plus. Dish has not yet formally declared its exact intentions for the spectrum, but mumblings and rumblings indicate a land-based LTE network.
Second, the FCC has agreed to move on to the next step in considering interoperability of all 700MHz LTE networks. Right now both AT&T and Verizon operate LTE devices on different parts of the 700MHz bands. And as almost any US wireless subscriber these days knows, AT&T and Verizon’s networks do not play nice with each other.
T-Mobile, among other even smaller carriers and AT&T, would like to see a situation in which all phones made with 700MHz LTE radios would be able to roam on all 700MHz LTE networks, regardless of carrier. This is currently being made impossible by carriers asking device manufacturers to exclude other carrier’s spectrum from their devices.
Across-the-board 700MHz compatibility policy would make life much easier on smaller carriers, and allow AT&T’s customers to roam on Verizon’s much larger LTE network. And that’s the kicker—both AT&T and Verizon have grown accustomed to their private spaces, and this deal may not actually help either one much at all.
Both of these steps are small, but they are in the right direction. The only real drawback for consumers in both of these proposals is interference. Can these proposals work in the real world without seriously hampering anything else? After all, interference is what sunk the LightSquared deal. For the sake of the consumer, let’s hope the big boys can figure out a way to let everyone have their piece of the sky.