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AT&T: Spectrum Limits Wireless Net Neutrality

AT&T backs Google and Verizon, says 'wireless is different' and shouldn't be held to wired net neutrality standards

Dan Jones

August 16, 2010

2 Min Read
AT&T: Spectrum Limits Wireless Net Neutrality

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has weighed in on the revitalized net neutrality debate, suggesting that because wireless is always going to have limited bandwidth compared to wired networks, the same rules shouldn't apply to both.

AT&T spoke up in support of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s recent public policy statement for "an Open Internet" via its blog. The company says that while wireless data usage is "exploding," operators are still faced with the simple fact that radio spectrum is a limited resource. (See Verizon & Google Define an 'Open Internet' and Eric & Ivan Tackle the Media .)

"Pitted against this insatiable demand are wireless networks of finite and shared resources," Joan Marsh, AT&T's vice president of federal regulatory, writes in the blog. "Wireless networks simply cannot provide the same amount of capacity as wireline networks."

Marsh says in the blog that AT&T wants policymakers to protect wireless broadband networks from "onerous new net neutrality regulations." The VP claims that it is "vital to the continued growth of the industry" that carriers are "able to dynamically manage traffic and operate their networks in an environment free from burdensome, arbitrary and unnecessary regulations."

In terms of spectrum, AT&T and Verizon are in fact deploying LTE in what many operators deem the lowest acceptable configuration at the moment, with two 10MHz channels in the 700MHz band. The FCC auctioned nearly 80MHz of 700MHz spectrum in 2008, with Verizon winning the 22MHz C-block and AT&T buying up 12Mhz of B-Block spectrum to fill out its portfolio. (See Verizon & AT&T Win 700 MHz Sweeps and AT&T & Verizon to Use 700 MHz for 4G .)

In contrast, Swedish operator Telia Company has started to introduce dual 20MHz channels on its live LTE deployment. The operator says that it is getting faster average speeds than Verizon is currently promising for its deployment (See LTE Watch: Size Matters for more.)

If the spectrum elements of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's national broadband plan ever come to fruition, however, the big operators may well find themselves with more bandwidth to play with. The FCC has already voted to open up 25MHz in the 2.3GHz -- enough for another operator to potentially deploy LTE -- and says that it wants to open up 500MHz of bandwidth over the next ten years. (See FCC Opens Up 25MHz in 2.3GHz Band and FCC Proposes 300MHz More Spectrum by 2015.)

In fact, net neutrality is something that AT&T's Marsh says -- in the blog post -- the industry needs to deal with and put behind it. "Then we could focus all our attention on a more urgent matter struggling for oxygen right now, and that’s the National Broadband Plan."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Dan Jones

Mobile Editor

Dan is to hats what Will.I.Am is to ridiculous eyewear. Fedora, trilby, tam-o-shanter -- all have graced the Jones pate during his career as the go-to purveyor of mobile essentials.

But hey, Dan is so much more than 4G maps and state-of-the-art headgear. Before joining the Light Reading team in 2002 he was an award-winning cult hit on Broadway (with four 'Toni' awards, two 'Emma' gongs and a 'Brian' to his name) with his one-man show, "Dan Sings the Show Tunes."

His perfectly crafted blogs, falling under the "Jonestown" banner, have been compared to the works of Chekhov. But only by Dan.

He lives in Brooklyn with cats.

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