AT&T gets FCC greenlight on wireless pectrum

The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday approved a proposal by AT&T and radio service Sirius XM Radio that would allow the wireless giant to move forward with plans to use airwaves that were under dispute over interference concerns.

Under the plan, AT&T will be able to use the majority of a 30 megahertz swath of spectrum to build out 4G LTE wireless services in certain areas. AT&T had bought up the Wireless Communications Services licenses in the 2.3 GHz band but wasn’t able to use it because Sirius, which was using an adjacent band, was concerned about interference.

The companies agreed that AT&T would use 20 megahertz for mobile broadband and the remaining 10 megahertz for fixed broadband.

The ruling gives AT&T a significant boost in its efforts to compete with Verizon Wireless for 4G LTE customers. The company has quietly bought up spectrum in the 2.3 GHz band from NextWave, Comcast and Horizon.

AT&T, the nation’s second-largest wireless carrier, has struggled to beef up its network. The FCC and Obama administration rejected its bid to merge with T-Mobile because they were concerned AT&T was harming consumers by becoming too powerful and hampering competition.

“The lesson here is fairly straightforward,” said Jeff Silva, an analyst at Medley Global Advisors. “In this or a subsequent Obama administration, leading wireless carriers Verizon and AT&T have the potential to execute spectrum transactions so long as another national mobile-phone operator is not eliminated and each agrees to make sacrifices in the way of license divestitures and other conditions.”

Related:

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T-Mobile, Metro PCS announce merger

Cecilia Kang is a senior technology correspondent for The Washington Post.

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