AT&T files petition to overturn some Harbinger LTE network stipulations

AT&T has filed a petition of reconsideration with the FCC, asking the commission to rescind certain provisions of its approval of Harbinger Capital Partners Funds plan to build a nationwide wholesale LTE network using both terrestrial and MSS spectrum following the firm's merger with satellite operator SkyTerra.

Specifically, AT&T opposes two conditions the FCC placed on the merger--that AT&T and Verizon can't use the spectrum without the FCC's approval and that traffic from the nation's two largest carriers, a.k.a. Verizon and AT&T, can't make up more than 25 percent of the total network traffic. AT&T said those provisions "arbitrarily and unlawfully limit AT&T's ability to enter into certain agreements and arrangements with SkyTerra that would make its spectrum or terrestrial networks available to AT&T."

Harbinger plans to design and build a wholesale mobile LTE network that will be open to any company that wants to offer mobile broadband. Harbinger will use MSS spectrum, Ancillary Terrestrial Component spectrum and terrestrial-only spectrum along with spectrum hosting and pooling agreements with roaming partners to roll out the network by the second quarter of 2013. It's plan is to reach 260 million potential subscribers by 2015.

AT&T said the provision will give unfair advantage to competitors, such as Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA, which will not have to get approval from the FCC to access the spectrum. AT&T called on the FCC to immediately rescind these conditions.

"The commission is setting a very disturbing precedent when it implies that it may use allocation of spectrum to manipulate the wireless market," Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs, said in a statement. "This action is manifestly unwise and potentially unlawful."

Earlier this week, Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson told FierceBroadbandWireless that Verizon finds "both the bureau's process and the resulting restrictions" troubling. "We are reviewing our options," he said.

The FCC defended the stipulations. "These commitments--building out the network to 260 million Americans by 2015 and allowing the FCC prior review of potential leases of spectrum or capacity to the two largest incumbent carriers--do not prohibit any specific transactions," Paul de Sa, chief of the FCC's Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, wrote in a blog post. "But they do provide some reassurance that the approval will ignite new broadband competition while protecting the public from any potential harms."

For more:
- see this GigaOm article
- read AT&T's petition with the FCC
- see this FierceWireless article

Related articles:
Are Harbinger Capital's LTE plans too good to be true?
PE firm to use MSS, terrestrial spectrum to build out nationwide LTE network
Commission allows Globalstar to offer WiMAX
Mobile satellite is making a comeback

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