AT&T counters claims against Band Class 17; FCC awash in comments


AT&T came to the rescue of the proposed Band Class 17 proposal that would see a 3GPP standard for LTE interoperability across the lower 700 MHz band exclude the A-Band that is mired in potential interference issues.

In a report filed with the Federal Communications Commission, AT&T said that proponents of Band Class 12, which would include the lower A-, B- and C-Block licenses, are raising unsubstantiated concerns that could impact the rollout of LTE services. The FCC has been flooded with comments on the band class issue.

The report counters claims reported last week by Band Class 12 supporters that there was not sufficient interference issues in the lower A-Block to prevent the deployment of LTE services across those bands.

“Now, however, certain lower 700 MHz licensees – who voiced no objection during the standards-setting process – ask the commission, years after the fact, to mandate that all lower 700 MHz licensees use Band 12,” AT&T noted in its filing. “Such an unprecedented countermanding of the standards setting body would undermine the integrity and predictability of the standards-setting process, retard broadband investment and deployment, threatens the reliability of existing LTE services, expose millions of consumers to additional interference risk, and yield none of the ‘interoperability’ benefits upon which the proposed regulatory mandate is falsely premised.”

More pressing for Band Class 17 supporters are concerns over roaming that could be limited if all LTE devices do not include support for the A-Block. AT&T cited the already growing number of band classes being supported by device and chip makers in order to meet the diverse spectrum bands being used by operators to rollout LTE services.

“Multi-band handsets are the norm in the industry,” AT&T noted. “For example, in addition to ports used for GSM/UMTS services and international roaming, AT&T handsets have both a Band 17 port (700 MHz) and a Band 4 port (AWS), which allows AT&T to offer LTE service (including roaming on another carrier’s network) on either band. Other carriers likewise have obtained dual-LTE band handsets. Manufacturers are now in the process of developing handsets with four LTE radio ports.”

As to claims that not including the A-Block into the specifications would limit device choices, AT&T noted that its reliance on GSM-based technologies for its 3G network already requires different chip specifications than those A-Block licensees that rely on CDMA technology for their 3G networks. AT&T pointed out that U.S. Cellular, which is moving forward with its LTE deployment in the A-Block, has already announced the availability of several Samsung devices compatible with its network.

“Consequently, even if AT&T purchased only Band 12 devices, A Block licensees would still have to work with manufacturers to obtain CDMA variants of those devices, which would require a substantial redesign,” AT&T explained. “It should thus be no surprise that U.S. Cellular’s current LTE device offerings appear to be variants of Verizon [Wireless] Band 13 devices designed with CDMA fall back.”

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Dan Meyer

Editor-in-Chief, Telecom Software, Policy, Wireless Carriers
Dan Meyer started at RCR Wireless News in 1999 covering wireless carriers and wireless technologies. As editor-in-chief, Dan oversees editorial direction, reports on news from the wireless industry, including telecom software, policy and wireless carriers, and provides opinion stories on topics of concern to the market such as his popular Friday column “Worst of the Week.”