Verizon to buy AWS spectrum from U.S. Cellular

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is seeking to acquire AWS spectrum owned by a subsidiary of U.S. Cellular (NYSE:USM), an indication Verizon remains willing to augment its 700 MHz LTE network with AWS radio waves.

According to an FCC filing, Verizon and Barat Wireless, an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of U.S. Cellular, filed an application for Verizon to acquire 20 MHz of AWS-1 spectrum in 53 counties in 14 Cellular Market Areas (CMAs) across parts of Illinois and Missouri near the St. Louis area. According to the FCC, if the transaction is approved, Verizon would own 62-117MHz of spectrum across those CMAs, 40 MHz of which would be AWS-1. Financial details were not disclosed.

Verizon Wireless spent $3.9 billion last year to purchase AWS spectrum from a group of cable companies. The spectrum is being used to augment Verizon's existing LTE network, which runs on its 700 MHz C Block spectrum and covers more than 300 million POPs. 

Earlier this month Verizon confirmed it had started deploying LTE in its AWS spectrum to boost capacity in key markets. In many markets where it is deploying AWS spectrum, Verizon will be able to use 20x20 MHz channels; wider channels allow for faster speeds. In some markets it will have smaller than 20x20 MHz channels.

"As our customers' wireless data usage continues to grow, AWS spectrum is being deployed to ensure the continued consistent reliability and capacity of our 4G LTE network," Verizon spokesman Tom Pica told FierceWireless. "Verizon Wireless has begun activating 4G LTE service on its AWS spectrum in many of our major markets across the United States. A limited number of devices are AWS capable at this time. We plan to push a software upgrade to other AWS-capable devices in the near future."

Pica declined to provide specifics on the AWS rollout, including which markets are running LTE technology in AWS and how fast the rollout would proceed.

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) is using AWS spectrum for its LTE network, which now covers 202 million POPs. AWS is the most popular band for LTE in the Americas, according to Tolaga Research.

Nicola Palmer, chief network officer at Verizon Wireless, told FierceWireless earlier this year that "AWS provides a great growth strategy to handle capacity demands on 4G LTE. We will deploy 5,000 AWS sites this year and it will be a lot more next year." She said Verizon will go to existing sites and equip them with AWS antennas.

For more:
- see this FCC document (PDF)
- see this PhoneScoop article

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