Verizon wants to swap spectrum with U.S. Cellular

In an unusual spectrum swap, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is asking the FCC to allow it swap some of its 700 MHz spectrum licenses with U.S. Cellular in exchange for certain 1900 MHz PCS licenses.  The transfer, if approved, could help U.S. Cellular expand its forthcoming LTE network.

According to the filing, Verizon is requesting that it be allowed to swap 13 lower 700 MHz B-Block licenses and five lower 700 MHz C-Block licenses in Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington. In exchange, U.S. Cellular would give Verizon two 10 MHz PCS licenses in Illinois and Indiana. The PCS licenses cover 14 counties in five cellular market areas, or CMAs, and the 700 MHz licenses cover 95 counties in 18 CMAs.

Verizon, which paid $4.7 billion for its 700 MHz spectrum in 2008, said the PCS licenses will help it expand capacity and improve service, and U.S. Cellular said the 700 MHz frequencies will help it expand into new markets and improve capacity and service.

The transfer is notable because of U.S. Cellular's accelerated LTE deployment plans. The company, which had originally planned to deploy the next-generation technology in 2012, said in May it will deploy LTE in 24 markets by November, covering approximately 25 percent to 30 percent of its total subscriber base. The company will outfit around 1,250 cell sites with LTE.

U.S. Cellular said at the time that its initial LTE rollout will be in select cities in Iowa, Wisconsin, Maine, North Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma. The company said these cities include some of U.S. Cellular's leading markets such as Milwaukee, Madison and Racine, Wis.; Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport, Iowa; Portland and Bangor, Maine; and Greenville, N.C.

For more:
- see this Phonescoop article
- see this FCC filing (PDF)

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