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AT&T gets approval for spectrum purchase while Verizon deal faces investigation

AT&T has been given the go-ahead to acquire spectrum from Qualcomm

US operator AT&T has been granted approval from regulators for its plans to go ahead with a $ 1.93bn deal to acquire spectrum from Qualcomm, just days after its planned merger with T-Mobile USA collapsed.

AT&T will purchase 6MHz of spectrum across the country in the 700MHz band, as well as another 6MHz of spectrum in five major metropolitan areas: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Unlike the T-Mobile merger, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), ruled that this purchase “would not result in competitive harm that would outweigh the public interest benefits of this transaction”.

AT&T announced its plans to buy the spectrum in December last year, just weeks before announcing the much larger-scale proposed deal to acquire T-Mobile USA for $ 39 billion, with both deals stimulated by a shortage of spectrum in the country.

Meanwhile, rival Verizon Wireless is to have a spectrum deal of its own investigated by authorities. The US Justice Department has confirmed that it is looking into a spectrum deal struck between Verizon Wireless and three US cable companies, and analysing any anti-competitive effects it may have on the telecommunications industry.

The operator recently announced plans to spend $ 3.6bn on 122 Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum licences from SpectrumCo, a joint venture between cable companies Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, in a bid to boost its LTE offering.

The cable companies also announced that they have entered into several agreements with Verizon, providing for the sale of various products and services.

However, there are concerns that the deal creates a relationship between companies that had been competing, which could be perceived as anti-competitive to the rest of the market. – telecoms industry news, analysis and opinion

Telefónica and E-Plus merger could result in spectrum forfeit

Telefonica's acquisition of Dutch operator KPN’s German subsidiary E-Plus could result in the firms being forced to give up some of their spectrum holding

Telefonica’s acquisition of Dutch operator KPN’s German subsidiary E-Plus could result in the firms being forced to give up some of their spectrum holding

German telecoms regulator the Bundesnetzagentur has warned Spanish operator group Telefónica that its acquisition of KPN’s German subsidiary E-Plus could see the firms relinquish some spectrum.

In October last year KPN’s shareholders approved the sale of E-Plus to Telefónica Deutschland for a bid of €5bn in cash and a 20.5 per cent stake in Telefónica Deutschland post transaction. KPN said the deal will allow it to refocus on its operations in the Netherlands and Belgium.

However, the deal is still subject to regulatory approval and after consulting industry stakeholders, the regulator has voiced concerns regarding the total amount of spectrum the firms would possess.

E-Plus currently holds 10MHz spectrum in the 900MHz band; 54.8MHz in the 1.8GHz band; 44.6MHz in the 2GHz band, 30MHz in 2.6GHz and 84MHz in the 3.5GHz band. Telefonica also holds a sizeable spectrum portfolio in Germany with 20MHz in the 800MHz band; 10MHz in the 900MHz band; 34.8MHz in 1.8GHz; 48.9MHz in 2GHz and 50MHz in the 2.6GHz spectrum band.

According to the Bundesnetzagentur, the company formed by a Telefonica and E-Plus merger would own 28.8 per cent of the spectrum available in the 900MHz band and 63.8 per cent of spectrum in the 1800MHz band; more than twice as much as Deutsche Telekom owns in the 1800MHz band and more than eight times more than Vodafone’s 7.7 per cent of spectrum holding in the band.

The Bundesnetzagentur confirmed that the two rival operators, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone, see the combined spectrum holding as discriminatory as it would have been obtained by a merger rather than in a fair and transparent spectrum auction.

The regulator is now seeking further consultation from industry stakeholders until April 11 2014 before a hearing on May 5 2014.

SK Telecom to expand LTE-A network with 1.8GHz spectrum

SK Telecom has announced plans to extend its LTE and LTE-A networks by building additional base stations using the 1.8GHz band by the end of this year

SK Telecom has announced plans to extend its LTE and LTE-A networks by building additional base stations using the 1.8GHz band by the end of this year

South Korean LTE pioneer SK Telecom has announced plans to extend its LTE and LTE-A networks by building additional base stations using the 1.8GHz band by the end of this year. The operator claims that the network improvement will result in subscribers experiencing mobile broadband speeds of 150Mbps nationwide.

SK Telecom had already rolled out its LTE network nationwide using 10MHz in the 800MHz frequency band in April last year.

The operator has spectrum holdings in the 800MHz and 1800MHz bands and said that it has developed technology that can combine three blocks of spectrum – 20MHz, 10MHz and 10MHz – across these bands to support LTE-Advanced technology offering speeds of up to 300Mbps.

SK Telecom has also gained approval to use 10MHz bandwidth in the 2.1GHz band for LTE after securing 30MHz bandwidth in the 2.1GHz band in South Korea’s spectrum auction in 2010.

“With the newly added 10 MHz LTE bandwidth in the 2.1GHz band, SK Telecom now secures LTE bandwidth in three different frequency bands – i.e. 10MHz in 800MHz band, 20MHz in 1.8GHz band and 10MHz in 2.1GHz band – thus moving one step closer to realising LTE-Advanced tri-band carrier aggregation technology that supports up to 300Mbps,” the operator said in a statement.

SK Telecom plans to begin building base stations for LTE in the 2.1GHz band in the second quarter of this year and will commercially roll out the network when supporting handsets come to the market.

Last month, the operator announced it had seen a modest year on year increase in revenue for FY2013, but recorded a 44.3 per cent increase in consolidated net income.


LTE Asia 2014 takes place on the 23rd to 25th September at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

Vodafone spends £1.9bn on Indian 4G spectrum

Vodafone will use some of the spectrum for 4G services

Vodafone will use some of the spectrum for 4G services

Vodafone India said Friday it has spent £1.9bn (INR19,645 crores) on spectrum licenses for 11 circles in the country.

The operator acquired a total of 23MHz in the 900MHz band in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata and 49MHz in the 1800MHz band in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, UP East, Rajasthan, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab.

A total of £540m is payable in financial year 2013/2014 with the remainder payable in instalments starting in 2017.

The company said it has established a strong platform for 4G data services by buying 1800MHz spectrum in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Karnataka and Kerala, which account for more than 50 per cent of data revenues and are expected to drive the adoption of 4G, as was the case after the introduction of 3G services in 2010.

Vodafone India has over 160 million customers, with the number of mobile internet users increasing 38 per cent to 45.7 million in its most recent quarter. Data usage also continues to grow strongly with 3G usage now averaging in excess of 700MB per month, the company said.

LTE Asia takes place 23-25 September 2014 at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Indian Spectrum Auction Ends the Week at $9.1 Billion

India’s radio spectrum auction ended the 40th round and its 6th day with bidding topping Rs 56,555 crore (US$ 9.1 billion), with Delhi retaining the main focus from the big bidders. Click here for more.


US Telecoms Regulator to Carry Out Review of Radio Spectrum Policy

The USA’s telecoms regulator, the FCC says that it is to take a fresh look at its mobile spectrum holding policies given the changes in technology, spectrum availability, and the mobile marketplace since the last review of these rules more than a decade ago. Click here for more.


Dynamic Spectrum Alliance Global Summit 2017 Successfully Concludes Following Discussion on Investment in Broadband Infrastructure

Establishing regulatory frameworks for enabling investment in broadband infrastructure across Africa was the key discussion as the fifth annual Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) Global Summit 2017 concluded yesterday in Cape Town, South Africa. Click here for more.

Cellular News

Vodafone and Bharti Airtel Apply for Indian Spectrum Auction

Vodafone and Bharti Airtel have both applied to take part in India’s forthcoming radio spectrum auction, sparking the applications race to beat the recently extended deadline. Click here for more.


EC calls on operators to share unlicensed spectrum more efficiently

The EC wants operators to share white space and spectrum between designated bands more efficiently

The European Commission (EC) has called on mobile operators in the region to share radio spectrum more effectively. The authority said that national spectrum regulation does not efficiently utilise spectrum or allow licensees to make use of new technical possibilities, leaving mobile and broadband users at risk of poor service as demand for data continues to grow.

The EC is advocating a coordinated European approach to sharing spectrum, which will lead to greater mobile network capacity, cheaper wireless broadband, and new markets such as tradable secondary rights for a given spectrum allocation.

“Radio spectrum is economic oxygen, it is used by every single person and business,” said Neelie Kroes, vice president of the EC responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe.  “If we run out of spectrum then mobile networks and broadband won’t work. That is unacceptable, we must maximise this scarce resource by re-using it and creating a single market out of it. We need a single market for spectrum in order to regain global industrial leadership in mobile and data, to attract more R&D investments.”

According to Matthew Howett, who leads and manages Ovum‘s regulatory advisory service, the most plausible interpretation of the EC’s instructions is to encourage multiple operators to co-exist in the white space that exists between spectrum bands.

“I think it’s less talking about getting Vodafone and O2 to share spectrum at 2.1GHz, for example. It’s instead trying to get more than one user to use vacant bands or spectrum used by TV operators – it’s about licence exempt spectrum and white spaces that exist between spectrum bands,” he said.

Between the GSM spectrum bands awarded to operators, there are small slices of spectrum that are used to prevent interference when using different technologies and different bands.

“The idea is that you let operators use this space without having a licence,” said Howett. “It could be used for lower power devices because they don’t cause interference with what’s happening in the bands either side.”

A challenge that many national regulators may face is that the Commission is earmarking spectrum for mobile use that is being used by other parties, such as minicab firms, for example. Regulators in each market will need to make a decision whether there’s more value in the mobile operators using that spectrum or whether it is necessary for other parties.

However, while many operators across Europe have recently inked network sharing agreements, particularly for the LTE networks, Howett does not believe that the EC will direct operators towards sharing spectrum.

“When they are running a mobile network, operators value the opportunity to tweak the network depending on number of users and their usage patterns,” he explained. “They need to broadcast their own spectrum to do that. So I don’t think we’re going to see any immediate move towards spectrum sharing, the sharing will only really happen in those lower power bands, such as TV white space.”

The European Union is facing exponential growth in wireless data traffic, and the EC predicts that global mobile data traffic will increase 26 per cent annually by 2015. By then, there will be 7.1 billion phones, tablets and other mobile devices that can connect to the internet. – telecoms industry news, analysis and opinion

Swedish Regulators Outline Radio Spectrum Auction Plans

The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) has outlined its plans for radio spectrum auctions over the next few years. Click here for more.