Wireless Carriers Bicker Over Size Of Spectrum Holdings

Wireless Spectrum Chart, Holdings By Carrier

Clearwire (NSDQ: CLWR) frequently brags about how much spectrum it has at its disposal, and how easy it will be to deliver a ton of video and other high-bandwidth services over mobile networks. It’s a luxurious postion to be in and something that has only become top of mind for consumers recently as they experience dropped calls or sluggish 3G internet speeds.

But it appears that AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon have been formulating their response to this, and this week refuted Clearwire’s claims, by arguing that they have deep spectrum positions that can re-purposed for 4G when it needs to, reports ConnectedPlanet.com. Kris Rinne, AT&T’s SVP of architecture and planning, who spoke along side other executives at a GSM Association event, said: “You need to make sure you count all of our spectrum when you make these comparisons.”

However, when you check the facts, it does appear that Clearwire has the better spectrum position — no matter how you slice it. A Yankee report on the subject wrote: “Clearwire ranks highest with an estimated average of 150 MHz in the top 100 U.S. markets, measured in terms of population. Clearwire is followed by Verizon and AT&T, which have 88 and 84 MHz respectively, then Sprint (NYSE: S) with 69 MHz and T-Mobile with 51 MHz.”

Other than Clearwire, Sprint is likely in the best position of all. It has partnered with Clearwire to roll-out its 4G network, meaning that in addition to its 69 MHz of holdings, it can tap into Clearwire’s 150 MHz.

Rinne’s logic was not completely flawed. As AT&T fills the 18 MHz it has set aside for 4G, it could fall-back to its AWS spectrum. And then, if that band were to get full, it can leverage its PCS spectrum. But right now, AT&T is using those bands for its 2G and 3G networks.It will have to transition those customers to 4G before those airwaves could be reused, which can be a painful process. Rinne said.


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