FCC asks Verizon for more data on plans to use acquired spectrum

Request comes after outside groups asked FCC to slow down cable spectrum deal

The Federal Communications Commission today asked Verizon to deliver a wide range of information on its spectrum holdings and its attempts to buy spectrum licenses from major cable companies.

In a 39-page letter addressed to Verizon, the FCC asked the company to provide a number of details on not only how much spectrum it currently holds but also what spectrum it plans to acquire from the cable companies and also whether it had considered any alternatives to building out its 4G LTE network prior to agreeing to the spectrum license deal. Specifically, the FCC asked Verizon to provide a nationwide coverage map detailing spectrum holdings for all of its networks, be they EV-DO Rev. A, EDGE or LTE, and to depict cell sites complete with color-coded frequency bands.

IN DEPTH: LTE spectrum: How much do the big carriers have? 

EARLIER THIS WEEK … Sprint, T-Mobile tell FCC to put brakes on Verizon spectrum deal

Among other things, the letter also asked Verizon to detail why spectrum in the prized lower 700MHz band was not suitable for expanding out LTE at a nationwide level; whether the company had considered repurposing spectrum currently used for other services; to provide all analyses about how Verizon would use the companies' spectrum for its LTE services and to detail the cost impacts of adding the spectrum to its LTE portfolio; and to provide a timeline of all talks between Verizon and the cable companies leading up to their proposed spectrum deal.

The FCC's letter to Verizon comes just days after T-Mobile, Sprint and several public interest groups sent the FCC a letter asking the agency to put the brakes on the Verizon spectrum deal and said that Verizon needed to release more information to the public before its acquisition of the cable company spectrum could proceed.

The controversy over Verizon's spectrum holdings started last year when Comcast, Time Warner and Bright House agreed to sell Verizon 122 AWS spectrum licenses that covered 259 million points of presence for $3.6 billion. Verizon subsequently worked out a similar deal with Cox Communications involving $315 million in licenses for 20MHz of AWS spectrum. Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead said the spectrum purchase "solidifies our network leadership into the future" and would allow Verizon to deliver better 4G LTE services to its users.

But while such a deal would undoubtedly benefit Verizon, it has attracted the attention of government regulators as well as the ire of Verizon's competitors. Last month Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, announced that he plans on holding a hearing that will put Verizon's spectrum deal with the cable companies under the microscope. News of Kohl's proposed hearing came less than two months after the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that it was also examining Verizon's recent dealings with cable companies to see if they violate antitrust law. In particular the DOJ will look into whether the deals are giving Verizon too much control over wireless spectrum that will be used to build and operate 4G LTE networks.

Both Verizon and AT&T have been employing a wide variety of tactics to gain more spectrum for their LTE networks, including proposing mergers with other spectrum-holding companies, moving their customers off legacy 2G networks and lobbying Congress to authorize more FCC spectrum auctions. The FCC has projected that growth in wireless data demand will lead to a "spectrum deficit" of 275MHz if no new spectrum is released by 2014. There is currently 547MHz of spectrum available for dual use in mobile voice and data services.

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