The FCC today approved Verizon Wireless’s plan to purchase spectrum in the AWS band from several of the nation’s largest cable companies – a deal originally proposed late last year. In addition the commission approved a proposed spectrum swap between Verizon Wireless and Leap Wireless, as well as Verizon’s plan to sell some spectrum to and trade some spectrum with T-Mobile.
The approval was not a surprise after Verizon, the cable companies, and the Department of Justice last week announced a consent decree imposing certain conditions on Verizon and the cable companies in connection with the co-marketing agreement that the partners announced at the same time as the spectrum deal. Various industry stakeholders had expressed concerns that the co-marketing agreement was anti-competitive, and the consent decree aims to address those concerns by, among other things, forbidding Verizon Wireless from selling cable company products in FiOS markets.
The FCC approval of the various spectrum deals came in an order issued by the FCC today, which imposes four “voluntary commitments” made by Verizon Wireless. These include:
- A requirement for Verizon Wireless to close its proposed spectrum transfer with T-Mobile within 45 days of the closing of the cable company and Leap transactions.
- A commitment from Verizon Wireless to offer service to at least 30% of the population in each area where it is acquiring AWS-1 licenses within three years and to at least 70% of the population in those areas within seven years.
- In the event that “the current data roaming rule is not available to requesting providers,” Verizon Wireless will continue to offer roaming arrangements to other carriers for mobile data service on any of its spectrum in the areas where it is acquiring AWS-1 spectrum.
- Verizon must provide reports concerning DSL subscribership trends on a semi-annual basis.
In a statement, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the spectrum transaction, as approved, will “preserve incentives for deployment and spur innovation while guarding against anti-competitive conduct. And vitally, it will put more than 20 megahertz of prime spectrum – spectrum that has gone unused for too long – quickly to work across the country, benefiting consumers and the marketplace.”
The other two Democratic FCC commissioners also approved the order. But the commission’s two Republican commissioners approved the order in part and concurred in part. Both Republicans objected to the data roaming requirement and questioned whether the FCC had overstepped its jurisdiction over the co-marketing agreements.
Some readers may recall that the approval of the Verizon/ cable spectrum deal today will require Verizon to make good on its promise to auction off some of its 700 MHz A- and B-block spectrum — – spectrum that is likely to be attractive to smaller wireless carriers that already have some A- and B-block holdings and to AT&T, which is also awaiting FCC approval of various spectrum transactions of its own.