Rural Cell Carriers Focus On 700MHz Interoperability
Give up Exclusive Handset Fight to Focus on 700MHz Battle
The The Rural Cellular Association (RCA) has long fought to end to exclusive handset agreements, arguing that the steep prices smaller carriers have to pay for handsets like the iPhone put them on an uneven playing field. Companies like C Spire have paid a steep price in the form of delayed LTE deployments
, and most smaller companies can't afford the price of entry at all. However the RCA appears to be picking its battles carefully, announcing they'll stop fighting over exclusive handsets arranagements in order to focus on interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band.
Verizon's and AT&T's LTE networks are not compatible, with Verizon's network running mostly in the 746-787MHz range, while AT&T's operating primarily in the 704-746MHz range. Verizon's spectrum only slightly overlaps AT&T's, so you can't take devices from one carrier to another.
Smaller carriers including MetroPCS, C Spire, and the Rural Cellular Association have been pushing the FCC to consider new rules that would make the entire 700MHz band interoperable, in order to aid competitor LTE roaming and help the public-safety community. They partially got their wish, with the FCC announcing
they'd explore rules that would at least make the lower portion of the 700MHz band interoperable.
In a new filing with the FCC
, the RCA says that they're giving up their focus on ending exclusive handset contracts in order to spend more of their time fighting for 700 MHz interoperability. While the group says exclusive handsets continue to "harm competition and impede the ability of wireless carriers to compete with AT&T and Verizon," new interoperability rules would cast a broader problem solving net for smaller, more rural cell carriers.
"Importantly, ensuring interoperability also will have a positive impact on the availability of cutting-edge devices that consumers demand and that competitive carriers require to compete effectively with the largest super-carriers, because the absence of interoperability has been a significant impediment (along with exclusivity) in smaller carriers' ability to obtain access to the latest handsets," the RCA said in their filing.
Handset exclusivity has fallen by the wayside as the consumer issue du jour as AT&T's initial stranglehold on the iPhone was broken. As for allowing LTE handsets to work across carriers to improve roaming and competition, that's an issue you can expect AT&T and Verizon to fight tooth and nail against in order to retain and protect market power. Even with a more focused fight on their plate, the RCA looks to have their hands full, especially if the FCC teeters toward the incompetent with the whole affair.
Dumb. Awesome, we totally need more frequencies to be used that interfere with the upper spectrum of most cable plants.
·Verizon Online DSL
VZW will be the big issue here Verizon has no technical (note that I said technical) reason to add interoperability to their handsets. Doing so would decrease reception on their own band (broader-bandwidth antennas get less gain on any one band than narrower-bandwidth ones) and increase expenses for device radios etc. The increase wouldn't be by much, but it would exist.
On the business side, Verizon obviously thinks that the only LTE "roaming" they need will be provided by their LTE in Rural America partners, who have to agree to whatever roaming terms VZW sets out (to be fair, I hear the terms are reasonable) in order to get access to Verizon's C-block spectrum...and roaming onto VZW's LTE network (which is, far and away, the largest LTE network in existence at this point).
Now look at things from the perspective of every other carrier with 700MHz spectrum (which all happens to be in the A and B blocks). Their LTE networks are smaller than Verizon's, and will be forever unless they're AT&T. They have to rely on LTE roaming in order to serve larger cities, and they would like to get roaming revenue when someone's LTE handset enters an area where they're the only LTE available. As long as Verizon is able to produce C-block-only devices, the following is true:
1. Verizon users will never roam onto A/B block providers.
2. If other providers want to roam onto Verizon, they'll have to add another band to their phone chipsets. Phones are expensive for these smaller providers anyway, and adding another LTE band (with little in the way of economies of scale, since Verizon isn't doing it and AT&T probably won't) will exacerbate the issue. If VZW had full-band phones, economies of scale would be better for everyone (except maybe Verizon)...but they aren't doing that.
RCA members won't have an issue getting LTE phones that are compatible with AT&T blocks, since AT&T's network is a patchwork on that band. AT&T will probably even ink roaming agreements with those providers (albeit at crappy rates, more than likely). But Verizon, the eight hundred pound LTE gorilla in the room, is the issue here.
As for handset exclusivity, now that anyone can get the iPhone (West Central Wireless, which covers 26 counties in central TX with GSM, EDGE and a brand-spanking-new HSPA network, has the phone) and pretty much any other formerly-exclusive device, that issue is resolved. The phones are expensive since you aren't buying them in bulk, but the carriers are willing to eat the expense in return for more new customers. So they've turned to the next huge issue: having the ability to roam on next-gen networks, preferably with reasonable rates (roaming data on WCW 3G is a jaw-dropping 50 cents per megabyte!).
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Re: VZW will be the big issue here You sound very knowledgeable on this issue. Do you work in telecom?
Re: VZW will be the big issue here
said by morbo:Centurylink(Qwest), Echostar, Level3 all have large numbers of employees in the Denver area.
You sound very knowledgeable on this issue. Do you work in telecom?
Re: VZW will be the big issue here he's from Texas if memory services correctly he's there or school.
Re: VZW will be the big issue here
said by iansltx:700 MHz will always be good for rural but while it may seem good for cities now it won't be once everyone has LTE. Once it's past the point where capacity rather than distance determines the number of towers needed the power of the 700 MHz cells in the city will have to be cut back. As for building penetration other countries have figured out ways to make just about any cell phone frequency below 2 GHz do that.
700 OTOH is very good at covering wide open spaces...and doing in building penetration...even when used in a mobile context. So it can be used for more than city centric "hot zones"
Re: VZW will be the big issue here ...as has the US. Frequencies above 2GHz OTOH...