Verizon to Sell Spectrum Holdings to Prepare for AWS License Purchases
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Verizon Wireless is planning to auction off its 700MHz A and B licenses, the mobile communications company announced on April 18.
The company currently operates its Long-Term Evolution (LTE) data service on 700MHz block C spectrum. According to Philip Junker, executive director of business development for Verizon Wireless, the sale of the 700MHz spectrum will take place if the company gets approval from the Federal Communications Commission to buy Advanced Wireless Service (AWS) licenses from a group of cable companies. The application for Verizon Wireless to buy those licenses was filed with the FCC late in 2011.
The spectrum purchase from cable companies Cox, Time Warner, Comcast, Leap Wireless and Bright House would take advantage of currently fallow spectrum. Originally the cable operators had planned to offer 3G wireless service in conjunction with wireless companies. Cox Communications was already well along in its planning to offer wireless service with Sprint, but that deal was already unraveling when the Verizon offer to buy the spectrum came along.
While Verizon Wireless won't actually start selling any of the lower 700MHz spectrum until the AWS spectrum purchase is approved, the company's statement said it was announcing the sale plans now to get things rolling with potential buyers. The idea is to make sure the 700MHz sale is ready to go once the AWS spectrum purchase is approved. Junker declined to provide a specific timeline for sales, however. "The sales process will unfold over time, and as we make sales we'll make application for license transfers when that happens," he said.
Junker said the current plans are for Verizon Wireless to add the 1.7GHz and 2.1GHz band pair to its holdings for use with LTE. While Verizon Wireless doesn't currently offer any mobile devices that work in these bands, they are available from other carriers, including T-Mobile. So adding such devices to the inventory should not raise any technical difficulties. Verizon Wireless already has licenses to the F block of AWS in Eastern United States, according to Junker.
Junker said Verizon Wireless should have a good idea where the company stands regarding FCC approval. The license applications have already gathered some opposition from public interest groups that worry that Verizon Wireless doesn't have enough competition and from other carriers, including T-Mobile, which would like at least some of the AWS spectrum being sold by the cable companies for its own network.
Junker said the primary goal of Verizon Wireless is to make the 700MHz blocks available to other carriers that could benefit from the additional bands. He said the company is seeking bids from both large and small carriers.