AT&T looking to buy even more 700 MHz spectrum for LTE

The FCC is seeking comment on a proposal by AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) to purchase close to two dozen 700 MHz spectrum licenses in Minnesota and Wisconsin the carrier said it plans to use for its forthcoming LTE network. AT&T did not disclose how much it plans to spend on the licenses.

The news is notable considering AT&T's seemingly unquenchable thirst for radio waves. The carrier just last week filed a petition with the FCC to purchase two other 700 MHz spectrum licenses. In March, AT&T announced its intention to purchase T-Mobile USA's operations and spectrum for $39 billion, and late last year AT&T said it would purchase Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) 700 MHz licenses for $1.93 billion. All of the proposed transactions are pending before the FCC.

AT&T's latest gambit involves purchasing 22 licenses from Redwood 700 covering 72 counties in 17 CMAs in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The licenses include lower 700 MHz B Block (704-710; 734-740) and C Block (710-716; 740-746) spectrum.

"AT&T currently anticipates using the 700 MHz spectrum that it is acquiring in this transaction to deploy a high-speed LTE network to provide consumers with the enhanced and innovative services that they demand," the carrier said in its FCC filing. "Consumers will benefit from a more robust LTE service with its faster speeds. Allowing AT&T to dedicate this spectrum to LTE service will benefit all of AT&T's customers by reducing network congestion and providing a higher quality experience. Without additional LTE capacity, available bandwidth will be constrained for both consumers using services based on LTE and those using services based on older network technologies."

AT&T plans to launch LTE sometime this year in 700 MHz and AWS spectrum, and plans to cover up to 75 million people with LTE by year-end.

A number of players, from competitors including Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP), to public interest groups to trade organizations, have voiced their opposition to AT&T's proposed purchase of T-Mobile and the carrier's efforts in general to expand its spectrum holdings. They contend the transactions would give AT&T 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 this FCC filing

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