As expected, Qualcomm wasn’t too happy with the FCC’s decision Monday to pair its review of AT&T’s purchase of Qualcomm’s 700 MHz Flo TV spectrum with its review of AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile (CP: FCC combining AT&T’s acquisitions into one big, controversial review). But when vice president of government affairs Dean Brenner aired Qualcomm’s complaint, he added a twist.
Here’s the full text of his statement—pay close attention to the last point:
“The FCC should approve the pending AT&T-Qualcomm spectrum sale now because of the clear benefits to the public from the sale that stand on their own and are totally unrelated to the proposed AT&T-T-Mobile merger. Approval now will foster the public policies that the FCC correctly deems so vital for the American public. Approval now will re-purpose unused 700 MHz unpaired spectrum for mobile broadband, thereby easing America’s spectrum crunch and helping to meet the FCC’s goal of reallocating 300 MHz for mobile broadband over the next five years. Approval now will also allow Qualcomm to invest in a new, spectrally efficient technology (supplemental downlink) and enable the first worldwide deployment to occur in the U.S., thereby fostering U.S. economic growth and job creation and enhancing U.S. global leadership in wireless technology.”
Qualcomm is basically saying that it doesn’t have much incentive to develop the asynchronous LTE-Advanced technology and chipsets required to deploy mobile broadband over that spectrum if the FCC won’t let it unload it. That FLO TV spectrum is unpaired, making it effectively useless to an operator dealing solely in split spectrum networks like AT&T. In order to utilize it, AT&T needs to deploy carrier aggregation technology that would allow it to tack that bandwidth onto its LTE network.
Essentially, Qualcomm is telling the FCC: The sooner you let us sell these frequencies the sooner you get the silicon necessary to turn a big chunk of unused airwaves into a functioning broadband network.
I’m not sure if the FCC will really be moved by that argument. Qualcomm could sell its spectrum to an operator with plans for a unpaired time-division LTE deployment. And Qualcomm is going to develop the technology regardless of whether the $1.9 billion deal with AT&T is approved.
But Qualcomm is pushing all the right buttons. The administration and the FCC have made allocating new spectrum for mobile broadband a big priority. Qualcomm is claiming it can deliver a big block of it in a bright red bow.