CTIA 2011: Sparks Fly Over Spectrum Sharing

ORLANDO, Fla. -- International CTIA WIRELESS 2011 -- Radio bandwidth sharing may be all the rage amongst the more promiscuous European carriers right now, but we're unlikely to see any of the big three U.S. carriers voluntarily swapping spectrum -- at least with each other -- any time soon.

The very notion of allowing any other carrier to share spectrum that isn't being fully utilized by the host operator appeared to be toxic to top executives from AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). AT&T CTO John Donovan and Verizon tech chief Tony Melone were both asked about the prospects of spectrum sharing in the future on a CTIA executive panel Tuesday afternoon.

"Over my dead body," quipped Melone. He went on to clarify that he believes the technical difficulties in sharing spectrum -- support for different frequencies and much more -- make it an unappealing prospect.

AT&T's Donovan shared the same mindset, even if he won't share his precious radio bandwidth: "Once you start to load up your network too much, you put your reputation at risk," he told the crowd. [Ed note: *cough* iPhone *cough*.]

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) was predictably much more open to the idea, considering it's already using Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) for its WiMax 4G service.

"We've got millions of customers on WiMax already," said Bob Azzi, Sprint senior vice president of networks. "If there are others out there ... we're happy to work with them.

It is clear that Sprint will have to work with smaller operators on sharing bandwidth, as the big boys aren't playing ball. Industry chatter has linked Sprint with LightSquared , in particular. (See Sprint's Hesse on LightSquared & Clearwire.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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