C Spire's LTE network won't support its 700 MHz spectrum

Vendor Alcatel-Lucent to build LTE base stations for AWS, PCS bands
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Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ: ALU) said it won't use C Spire's 700 MHz Lower A Block spectrum in its LTE base stations for the carrier. C Spire has said it cannot use its 700 MHz spectrum for its September LTE launch because it lacks devices to deploy on that spectrum.  

Instead, the carrier will use its 1700 MHz AWS spectrum and 1900 MHz PCS spectrum, and not its Band Class 12 700 MHz LTE spectrum. Alcatel-Lucent COO Sandy Motley told Wireless Week "it's not a difficult thing to do" to add support for 700 MHz spectrum to the network infrastructure.

"Really, the key driver is the device, how many bands are on the device and what your expectations are in terms of roaming," she said, adding that the company has Band Class 12 equipment C Spire could use. "That's really where the planning starts."

Current Analysis analyst Peter Jarich said the issue comes down to cost: "It's going to be a scale thing," he told FierceWireless. "Are you going to get those [700 MHz] radios for the price you want or are you looking at some other band?"

C Spire has said it will invest $60 million for the initial phase of its LTE deployment in 20 Mississippi markets beginning in September covering 2,700 square miles, a population of 1.2 million and more than 360 cell sites. The carrier has not detailed its LTE pricing plans yet, but has said it will offer the Samsung Galaxy S III and other LTE devices later this year.

C Spire Wireless accused AT&T (NYSE:T), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) and Motorola Mobility of working together to push it and other small regional carriers out of business by manipulating the standards process for creating band classes in the 700 MHz band. C Spire's lawsuit alleges that AT&T, along with Qualcomm and Motorola, pushed the 3GPP process toward creating Band Class 17 for AT&T, which excludes the Lower A Block licensees. The companies have sought to get the lawsuit dismissed.

Until the issue is resolved C Spire has said it will not launch LTE service on its 700 MHz spectrum.

Interestingly, U.S. Cellular, which also owns Lower A Block 700 MHz spectrum, has deployed two LTE devices so far, with plans to launch several more by year-end. U.S. Cellular has confirmed that the company is using its 700 MHz spectrum for LTE.

Representatives for C Spire and Alcatel-Lucent did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the issue of cost for the network deployment.

For more:
- see this Wireless Week article

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