Verizon tells the FCC not to allow AT&T to get 4.9GHz spectrum worth $14 billion

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Verizon wrote a letter to FCC Secretary Marlene H. Dortch last week demanding that the regulatory agency prevent a proposal from the Public Safety Spectrum Alliance (PSSA) from going through. The PSSA is an alliance that makes sure that first responders have access to the most technologically advanced communications systems and has floated a proposal that would give FirstNet 50Hz of 4.9 GHz spectrum via a nationwide license or a sharing system.
FirstNet is a broadband network for first responders created through a public-private partnership between the federal government and AT&T. PSSA’s proposal would allow AT&T to use the 50MHz of 4.9GHz spectrum in the same manner that it uses Band 14. If AT&T gets approval to do this, it will be able to use the aforementioned 4.9GHz airwaves for its commercial customers. These customers would be deprioritized when FirstNet’s first responder users need the spectrum to communicate during an emergency.
Verizon says in its letter that there is no evidence to support giving AT&T the spectrum as that would be a $14 billion gift to the wireless provider. “A giveaway that would advantage a single provider, and one with no competitive process, would undermine the competitive wireless marketplace and US spectrum policy,” Verizon wrote, and the nation’s biggest carrier suggested that the airwaves be auctioned off instead of just given away.

The concern that Verizon has is that by giving AT&T the 4.9GHz spectrum, it would lose out to its rival in the market for public safety wireless connections. Verizon‘s Frontline service competes with FirstNet and gives first responders access to all of Verizon‘s commercial bands giving the first responders priority.
For years, the PSSA has been pressing the FCC to allow the 4.9GHz spectrum to be turned over to FirstNet to unlock the band’s potential to deliver 5G wireless service to the public safety community. According to LightReading, the National Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs support the PSSA’s position.
On the other hand, the Coalition for Emergency Response and Critical Infrastructure (CERCI), an alliance whose founding members include T-Mobile, Verizon, and UScellular, believes that AT&T should not be given the spectrum. In its own letter to the FCC, CERCI wrote, “Giving the 4.9GHz band to AT&T to serve public safety and commercial customers would disrupt the wireless marketplace. As a policy matter, it is unsound.”

We will be keeping an eye on this situation and will let you know what the FCC decides.


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