After fighting such changes for years, AT&T did an abrupt about face this week and agreed to 700 MHz LTE interoperability rules that should benefit smaller wireless carriers and consumers. Most smaller carriers operate in Band Class 12 while AT&T most often operates in Band Class 17. In addition to roaming issues, smaller carriers argue that unless interoperability rules are in place, handset makers will cater primarily to the larger competitors, who already enjoy numerous competitive advantages.
T-Mobile was among several competitors and groups (MetroPCS, C Spire, the Rural Cellular Association) who recently asked the FCC to consider making the entire 700MHz band interoperable, in order to aid competitor LTE roaming and help the public-safety community. AT&T long fought the changes citing "interference concerns" competitors argued didn't exist.
Getting AT&T To budge is a pretty big win for interim FCC boss Mignon Clyburn (remind me why she wasn't good enough to lead the agency, again?), who in a statement
called AT&T's about face "big win for consumers, especially in rural areas."
"(This) effort will allow AT&T’s network to support Band 12 capable devices," AT&T stated in a blog post
. "AT&T has also committed to working collaboratively with its chipset partners and OEMs to introduce, within a reasonable time frame, new Band 12 capable devices into its device portfolio." AT&T didn't give a time frame other than to say the shift will be completed "within a reasonable time frame."
Granted this won't fix everything. Verizon still contributes to significant fragmentation courtesy of their use of Band 13.