AT&T asks FCC to approve more 700 MHz spectrum license purchases

Spectrum from T-Mobile USA and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), it seems, is not enough. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) is asking the FCC to approve its purchase of two additional spectrum licenses that cover 700 MHz radio waves in Kansas and Massachusetts.

While such spectrum purchases are relatively common for the nation's largest wireless carriers, and the licenses AT&T is hoping to buy are relatively trivial, the news is noteworthy considering AT&T's seemingly unquenchable quest for airwaves. AT&T late last year announced it would purchase Qualcomm's 700 MHz licenses for $1.93 billion, and in March AT&T announced its intention to purchase T-Mobile USA for $39 billion. Both transactions are pending before the FCC.

As for AT&T's most recent grab for spectrum, the carrier plans to use the 700 MHz licenses to bolster both its existing GSM network and its planned LTE network. In its filings with the FCC, AT&T said that it plans to use the Massachusetts license (710-716; 740-746 MHz) to enhance its GSM and UMTS networks in the area, and that it would use the Kansas license (704-710; 734-740 MHz) for its forthcoming LTE network. Knology of Kansas owns the Kansas license, and 700 MHz LLC owns the Massachusetts license. AT&T did not disclose the financial terms of the transactions.

The new requests are similar to requests AT&T made in February, when it asked the FCC to approve a purchase of some 700 MHz spectrum licenses from privately-held Whidbey Telephone Company, which operates in the state of Washington, to augment its GSM and UMTS networks. Those licenses lie in the lower 700 MHz B Block and lower 700 MHz C Block.

AT&T plans to launch LTE sometime this year, and plans to cover up to 75 million people with LTE by the end of 2011.

A number of entities, including trade groups and public interest groups, are fighting against AT&T's T-Mobile and Qualcomm purchases, arguing the transactions would give the carrier too much market power. AT&T has argued that it needs additional spectrum to meet user demand; indeed, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson recently said he expects mobile data traffic on the company's network to grow 8 to 10 times by 2015, and that by 2015 AT&T will be handling as much data in a month and a half as it handled in all of 2010.

For more:
- see these two FCC filings

Special Report: Carrier aggregation: How AT&T will use Qualcomm's MediaFLO spectrum to double LTE speeds

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