AT&T expects to start deploying 2.3 GHz WCS spectrum for LTE this summer

ATLANTA-- AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) plans to start deploying 2.3 GHz WCS spectrum for LTE starting this summer, according to an AT&T executive.

Tom Keathley, AT&T


Tom Keathley, senior vice president of network and product planning at AT&T, said that within the next few months the company expects to start altering its network gear in certain markets to get the deployment off the ground. AT&T had long said it would deploy the spectrum in 2015 but had never given a more official timetable.

"It's proceeding quite well," Keathley said in an interview with FierceWirelessTech here at AT&T's wireless headquarters. "You'll likely see us start the deployment this summer. And then of course that deployment will ramp through the year on into 2016 and beyond."

Keathley said AT&T has mobile handsets and devices in its pipeline that will be able to take advantage of the spectrum. AT&T in 2012 acquired $600 million worth of additional WCS spectrum from NextWave. AT&T also inked agreements last year to purchase all of Sprint's (NYSE: S) WCS spectrum licenses. The carrier had planned to use some of that spectrum to offer in-flight Wi-Fi services, but last year scrapped that plan.

Keathley added that it will not be a major undertaking to add 2.3 GHz capabilities to AT&T's network. He said that all of the antennas the company has deployed recently are "broadband antennas" and include support for the WCS spectrum. So to add 2.3 GHz support will require adding just another remote radio head at cell sites, he said.

The 2.3 GHz deployment will proceed differently than AT&T's 700 MHz deployment for LTE, Keathley said. AT&T used its 700 MHz holdings to deploy a broad coverage layer which it says now covers more than 300 million POPs.

"So naturally we went out fast to deploy the coverage layer. WCS will be a capacity layer," he said. "So to the extent that we need capacity in an area that will be more the indicator of how fast we go." Thus, the spectrum will likely be deployed first in dense, urban areas, he said.

The 2.3 GHz band is not the only spectrum band AT&T will use for LTE addition to 700 MHz. Currently, AT&T is using carrier aggregation on a small scale by combining its 700 MHz spectrum and its 2100 MHz AWS spectrum in a handful of markets. AT&T is also refarming its 1900 MHz PCS spectrum for LTE service.

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