Verizon Wireless can acquire Alltel, while Sprint Nextel can acquire Clearwire and former analog TV signals can be used for new purposes, the FCC voted yesterday.
While most of the country was focused on the presidential election, people in the wireless industry watched FCC votes, which as expected were 5-0 decisions with a handful of partial dissents.
Verizon, the second-largest U.S. wireless operator, will top AT&T to become the largest operator when its acquisition of Alltel is completed. Verizon is paying $5.9 billion and inheriting another $22.2 billion in debt.
The FCC vote included several conditions focused on existing roaming deals and overlapping markets. Details of those conditions will be announced soon, an FCC spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Sprint is merging its Xohm division with Clearwire. The new company, which will specialize in mobile WiMAX, will keep the Clearwire name; it has major investments from Comcast, Google, Intel and Time Warner Cable. A smaller company, Bright House Networks, also is involved. The total group investment is $3.2 billion, and Sprint will own 51% of the company.
A third major issue facing the FCC was the topic of white spaces – spectrum remaining from defunct analog TV networks that could be used for unlicensed devices. FCC officials voted in favor of specific rules for this purpose.
“The rules will allow for both fixed and personal/portable unlicensed devices. Such devices must include a geolocation capability and provisions to access over the Internet a database of the incumbent services, such as full-power and low-power TV stations and cable system headends, in addition to spectrum-sensing technology. The database will tell the white space device what spectrum may be used at that location. Wireless microphones will be protected in a variety of ways,” the FCC said in its written statement.
“The commission also has required that devices include the ability to listen to the airwaves to sense wireless microphones as an additional measure of protection for these devices. All white space devices are subject to equipment certification by the FCC Laboratory… The commission also will permit certification of devices that do not include the geolocation and database access capabilities, and instead rely solely on spectrum sensing to avoid causing harmful interference, subject to a much more rigorous approval process.”
The issue of white spaces has drawn fire from performers such as Dolly Parton to music and recording groups, concerned about the potential for interference during live performances.
Filed Under: Industry regulations, Infrastructure