The FCC (News - Alert) recently approved an industry plan that will lead to interoperable LTE service in the lower 700 MHz band.
The plan stands to help consumers and smaller carriers, especially in rural areas – because smaller carriers could use the 700MHz LTE (News - Alert) spectrum now employed by AT&T and others. Also, devices from smaller operators will be able to work on their networks and networks belonging to competitors, according to a post from Blog 3G Store.
In the past, spectrum allocation has led to smaller carriers facing problems with roaming and a variety of other technical challenges.
The new spectrum plan was promoted by wireless providers and the Competitive Carriers Association. Verizon Wireless (News - Alert), AT&T and some other carriers use the 700MHz spectrum band for LTE 4G networks.
In addition, the FCC says the plan will benefit the wider public. “The…terms of the voluntary agreement serve the public interest by encouraging efficient use of spectrum and enabling consumers to enjoy the benefits of greater competition,” according to an FCC statement. It adds it will “give consumers more choice in using their devices with large and small carriers alike and will promote widespread deployment of mobile broadband services, especially in rural areas.”
It is not clear when the improvements will start being seen – but the FCC is confident in the wisdom of the plan.
“Actions taken…improve wireless availability and competition, spur investment in and build out of the networks in the Lower 700 MHz band, and result in significant savings to the consumer,” the FCC added in the statement.
As part of the new plan, there are also attempts to reduce the risk of interference. AT&T (News - Alert) issued a statement which said in part, “We are pleased to see the FCC moving swiftly to address these interference issues consistent with the negotiated solution. The action…is a critical step to achieving 700Mhz interoperability that will in turn foster industry investment and deployment in the 700MHz band to the benefit of U.S. wireless consumers."
Under the initiative, AT&T eventually will allow phones for smaller carriers to operate on its LTE network and the company will also provide more devices that can operate on the networks from the smaller carriers, according to The Verge.
The plan led to some confusion with one reader, “rbrome” trying to clarify the plan on Engadget, writing, “Actually, AT&T has their frequency band, and the rural carriers have their (very close, but separate) bands. That hasn't changed. There are no new bands and no one is getting new access to the AT&T frequency band. Rather, the FCC is mandating that phones be made to work with both sets of bands, so that a phone made for AT&T can also be sold by the smaller carriers. That solves the very real problem of no one wanting to design and manufacture a phone just for some fraction of the 5,000 customers of East Bumpkin Cellular.”
In a related recent move, the FCC has come up with new regulations for spectrum that has been set aside for public safety use. The new network will be located in the 700MHz band, and could be used by some 60,000 public safety agencies, which now use other various systems.
Edited by Alisen Downey