Verizon 4G Spectrum Deal Approval Soon?

The U.S. government is close to approving Verizon Wireless 's spectrum deals with Leap Wireless International Inc. (Nasdaq: LEAP), T-Mobile US Inc. and four cable companies -- with some conditions -- this Thursday morning.

The U.S. Department of Justice approved the spectrum sale Thursday morning, though with some conditions that limit the length and scope of the separate marketing deals that let Verizon Wireless and its MSO partners bundle each other's services. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski signaled his approval of the deal in a statement, and urged other Commissioners to vote in favor of it as well when the new order, now being circulated at the FCC, comes up for a vote. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has also put out a statement saying it expects the deals to be approved.

There is a call on the deal happening just before noon EST today. Light Reading will provide more details about the conditions surrounding the deal soon. Wednesday night, Verizon filed a fresh proposal that it hopes will seal the deal to get it access to Advanced Wireless Services (1700MHz/2100MHz) spectrum for its 4G LTE service in the US. Verizon currently covers more than 75 percent of the US with 4G on the 700MHz C-Block, but says that consumers will "experience growing congestion beginning as early as 2013 in many markets and soon after in many others" if it doesn't get more bandwidth.

This is why in December 2011 Verizon proposed a $3.6 billion deal to buy spectrum from Comcast, Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC). In June this year, it tried to sweeten the deal with a proposal to swap AWS spectrum with T-Mobile across a total of 218 markets, giving its smaller rival a chance to broaden its own proposed 4G footprint.

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and others, however, are still pushing the FCC to put conditions on the spectrum deals. So, Verizon is seeking to reassure the agency of its good intentions with its latest proposals.

Big Red tells the FCC it will:

  • Cover at least 30 percent of the population in the areas covered by the new licenses with signal and service within three years of the commission's initial approval.
  • Cover at least 70 percent of the population in the new license areas within seven years of the FCC saying yes to AWS.
  • Commit to allowing other carriers to roam on the AWS spectrum "on commercially reasonable terms and conditions" providing the operator has "a generation of wireless technology comparable to the technology on which the requesting provider seeks to roam" -- aka fourth generation (4G) technology -- for five years after the licenses are initially approved.

    Why this matters
    These concessions show how much Verizon wants to close this spectrum deal. It has argued with the FCC on 700MHz LTE roaming rights in particular in the past.

    For more

    — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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