A group of smaller wireless companies are launching a new coalition on Monday to urge the Federal Communications Commission to take action on a proposal that would make it easier for them to use spectrum they already hold to launch their next-generation 4G wireless networks.
The Interoperability Alliance wants the FCC to finalize rules that would require other wireless providers to use the same standard in a band of spectrum where smaller wireless providers hope to launch their 4G wireless networks. Much of their ire appears to be targeted at AT&T, which opted to use a different standard in the 700 megahertz band than adopted by other wireless providers. Because of this, smaller providers argue they are having a difficult time obtaining handsets from manufacturers and will be unable to allow their customers to roam on AT&T's network, which is key if their customers want to use their phones anywhere in the country.
Smaller wireless providers say they have been unable to use licenses they have purchased in the 700 band because of the lack of interoperability. The FCC opened a proceeding in March on the issue but has yet to issue any final action. An FCC spokesman Thursday declined to comment on when the commission may act.
AT&T has argued that it needs to operate on a different standard to avoid interference with other users of the band. "Some have argued that the technical and physical limitations of the band should simply be ignored, and have called for sweeping interoperability mandates," AT&T Vice President Joan Marsh said in a March blog post after the FCC opened its proceeding, which was aimed at examining such interference issues. "Such mandates would be an unprecedented regulatory intrusion into a carrier's right to manage network and device deployment in a manner best suited to serve its customers."
But rival carriers counter that such interference concerns have been addressed and claim that AT&T, instead, is focused on inhibiting its competitors.
Coalition organizers declined to release a list of members before Monday's launch but the group is expected to include the Rural Cellular Association, which represents smaller wireless carriers, C-Spire, a regional wireless carrier based in Mississippi, and others.
"RCA is a founding member of the Interoperability Alliance to urge prompt restoration of interoperability that will allow nationwide deployment of 700 megahertz spectrum, support full spectrum utilization, and provide a framework for competition in a 4G world," Rural Cellular Association General Counsel Rebecca Thompson, told Tech Daily Dose. "RCA joined the alliance to show regulators that almost all of the wireless industry agrees that now is the time for the FCC to restore interoperability to the lower 700 megahertz spectrum, before ATT's market dominance turns into market control."