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Thanks for the overview - indeed it seems that spectrum assets are comparable. Nevertheless I would argue, that in terms off data demand the carrier have to deal with US is different - especially since ATT has to cope with high smartphone density in combination with true flat-rate data plans. Arguably, the US carriers are years ahead in the moble broadband era. That is why in my view, spectrum crunch is more of an issue than in German...


Hi Michael,

I wonder if you have more data and comparisons concerning this!? I am frequently traveling in both Europe and the US and quite frankly I dont see a big difference in the amount of smartphone use and smartphone penetration on either side of the Atlantic.


David Boettger

There's a small problem with the number quoted here for AT&T's 700 MHz holdings. The cited paper indicates 20 MHz @ 700 MHz, which is 2x10 MHz, not 2x15 MHz. However, Verizon got the only nation-wide 2x11 MHz license. AT&T got one or two 2x6 MHz licenses per market, meaning that it holds either 12 or 24 MHz in each 700 MHz market.

As with many causes that GSM Americas (and CTIA) champion, there is more to the story. The way these organizations -- and the carriers themselves -- tell it, the only way to deal with traffic growth is more spectrum. But this is an absurdly black & white argument. There are *many* ways to deal with traffic growth: terminating unlimited data plans, doing a better job of traffic management, utilizing more efficient technologies (like LTE), and yes, building more sites are all options. But more spectrum allows carriers just to be lazy and continue doing what they've been doing for the past 20 years, rather than being innovative, which is why they are howling for more of it.

I think the real takeaway from Table 5 in the cited paper is that spectrum is absurdly concentrated in the U.S., with AT&T and Verizon having almost twice as much as the second-tier carriers. When the FCC permits AT&T to eat T-Mobile USA -- as it surely will -- how long can it be before Verizon consumes Sprint? That will leave substantially all the U.S. cellular spectrum in the hands of two operators, resulting in an insurmountable barrier to entry for new operators.

I regret that some organizations seem to think that the job of the regulator is to serve the needs of the carriers rather than the needs of consumers.

David Boettger

A few corrections to my own post:

Verzion does have near-nationwide coverage at 700 MHz, but not with the nationwide license; they won most of the 2x11 MHz licenses covering 98% of POPs (continental U.S. and Hawaii).

Verizon also has over half the A block (2x6 MHz) by POPs - mostly big metro areas - and some B (2x6 MHz).

AT&T has just under 2/3 of the POPs in the B block (2x6 MHz). That's 12 MHz in *some* markets, so both my numbers and the GSMA paper were wrong.

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