Will Verizon's public-safety partnership with Motorola keep competitors from getting D-block spectrum?

Lynnette LunaChalk one up for Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ). Its alliance with Motorola Solutions (NYSE:MSI) to provide roaming to public-safety LTE networks may just be the nail in the coffin to keep the likes of T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) out of the 700 MHz D-block band.

Verizon has teamed with  Motorola to deliver a nationwide carrier LTE roaming and application package to public-safety entities building out their own private LTE networks. The goal is to backfill the lack of coverage public-safety networks will initially have with Verizon's LTE network in a seamless way. Motorola said many public-safety entities want to build out networks but can't afford to in the 10 megahertz of 700 MHz public-safety has held since 1997.

It's also clear that such a move was quite a strategic one on behalf of Verizon Wireless, which, along with AT&T Mobility, has been in favor of giving the D-block spectrum directly to public safety instead of the FCC re-auctioning the spectrum to commercial carriers that in turn would give public-safety users priority access. Sprint and T-Mobile, which don't hold any 700 MHz spectrum, argue they can build out a nationwide network much faster and allow public safety to take advantage of it.

Verizon, one of the largest holders of 700 MHz, can now undercut that argument through this package deal it and Motorola will offer to public-safety users. The timing also seems impeccable as the Obama administration recently backed a plan to allocate the D block directly to public-safety groups, a position at odds with the FCC's strategy to re-auction the spectrum. 

Moreover, if the FCC gives the D block directly to public safety, Verizon not only keeps competitors out of the band but it makes money from subscription fees paid by public-safety users.

AT&T Mobility may lose out on any potential deals with public safety if Verizon and Motorola gain significant traction with the project. Motorola is planning to develop devices capable of roaming between the public-safety band and Verizon's Band 14 frequencies, and a seamless roaming experience complete with public-safety applications is hard to replicate.--Lynnette

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