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

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joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:26:37 PM
re: AT&T: Spectrum Limits Wireless Net Neutrality

I'm wondering who speaks for the consumer in all this? Obviously the carriers want to have control, Google seems to have pretty much entirely backed off an open devices, open networks platform as regards wireless.


As we move to all-IP wireless networks, the thing I might be most affected is voice quality on calls, if there's no one minding the house, is there much incentive for carriers to provide decent quality voice calls? After all, it will be a declining part of their revenues.

Specter619 12/5/2012 | 4:26:35 PM
re: AT&T: Spectrum Limits Wireless Net Neutrality Sounds like they're fighting for the right to tell us the trueth as"they" see it. You're also right about the consumer representation in all of this....there is none! Damn the man!WTF google what happend to not being evil? Come on nerds of America! You know what this means more than any of us....WTF happend to DON'T TREAD ON ME! and LIVE FREE OR DIE!
Honestly 12/5/2012 | 4:26:35 PM
re: AT&T: Spectrum Limits Wireless Net Neutrality

Forget the spin, At&t has officially rounded out and confirmed the massive wireless monopoly that is completed by Verizon and GOOG.  I don't care what they say about network neutrality, this smells of self interest, control and profit. We lose again, the Third Reich is alive and well.


rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 4:26:34 PM
re: AT&T: Spectrum Limits Wireless Net Neutrality

Written 3 years ago and published here in the Financial Times.

Imagine an electric power utility that owns or controls all electric devices you plug in, from lamps to computers to TV sets and clock radios. They must either be rented from the utility or be on a short-list of approved devices. Laughable? Repressive? But that was the way electric companies operated in their early years.


In the age of digital convergence, the separation of networks from each other through the control over their initial access points makes little technological or consumer sense.  Keeping others’ technical devices off the edge of a network retards innovation, increases prices, reduces usage, and limits content diversity. Just as it became an anachronism for electric and telecom networks, so it will be in time for cable and wireless.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:26:34 PM
re: AT&T: Spectrum Limits Wireless Net Neutrality Really? You can't see why voice might be important sometimes? I suspect you will be able to get data download quality as long as you can pony up the dollars for it.
Specter619 12/5/2012 | 4:26:34 PM
re: AT&T: Spectrum Limits Wireless Net Neutrality Screw the voice quality.personally id rather sacrifice voice quality for better faster or more reliable data.
jepovic 12/5/2012 | 4:26:33 PM
re: AT&T: Spectrum Limits Wireless Net Neutrality

There are lots more applications than voice that won't work without policed networks, especially in the future: Video services (not just TV), critical applications such as alarms, network gaming, etc. Without policing, these apps will stay wireline.

It's kinda funny that the US of all countries is the one where net neutrality is even considered an option. It's not like paying for premium quality is something unheard of.

Even more absurd to me is that the NN lobby worries so much whether their email will arrive 150 milliseconds later or so, but have no trouble with google and the government reading the same emails. As long as google is open with their privacy policy, everything goes.

Specter619 12/5/2012 | 4:26:33 PM
re: AT&T: Spectrum Limits Wireless Net Neutrality

so long as its understandable...see i was selling phonse way back when they were brick analogs. that was ok voice quality not the best mind you but we got business done ok...8) love this site man just found it.

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 4:26:29 PM
re: AT&T: Spectrum Limits Wireless Net Neutrality

From what I read the NN advocates aren't arguing against traffic differentiation but are argueing against traffic differentiation used to support discrimination.  In the old days the railroads used to charge not by weight, size and distance (i.e. the cost to transport something) but rather by what was inside the boxes.  So if I wanted to ship $1M worth of diamonds they'd line their pockets with 10+% of those diamonds regardless of the actual cost to transport them.

It's really no different here.  The bit distributors aren't trying to build out a multi-modal information distribution system where they can offer traffic differentiation at different price points (per the different costs) but rather they are trying to use exclusion and discrimination to extract rent from the goods themselves.  This behavior "retards innovation, increases prices, reduces usage, and limits content diversity" as Eli Noam and others have pointed out years ago.

ISDN vs. dial up MODEMs is a specific example why things like common carriage benefit a society.


jepovic 12/5/2012 | 4:26:27 PM
re: AT&T: Spectrum Limits Wireless Net Neutrality

It's a funny way of thinking in a capitalist country. Charging by customer value rather than production cost is wonderful. I think Apple (and Docomo in Japan, to take a slightly earlier example) has shown how vertical integration can speed up development. Apple does use "exclusion and discrimination", but I wouldn't say that behaviour "retards innovation, increases prices, reduces usage, and limits content diversity".

Many NN advocates would love to transform operators into utilities. They could, but then they would get all the technical development and innovation typical of utilities as well. In the old days, the railroads were flourishing, while now they are marginalized and stagnant.

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