AT&T also has supported small-cell technologies that can help bring wireless signals inside homes and businesses where copper and fiber do not reach.
John Donovan, senior executive vice president of AT&T technology and network operations, says in a blog posted on January 30 that 40,000 small cells (such as femtocells, metrocells and multi-standard metrocells) will be deployed by the end of 2015.
However, while all the major carriers are interested in seeing costs go down for small cell technologies so that signals can be improved in areas where there is already spectrum, valleys, mountains and buildings can still get in the way.
In addition, Nicoll says that AT&T's use of AWS spectrum at 1.7GHz and 2.1GHz, along with 1900MHz spectrum, provides poorer wireless penetration inside buildings when compared to Verizon's 700MHz spectrum.
Sprint's Network Vision
Sprint's Network Vision plan will consolidate LTE with other traditional network technologies to provide cost savings.
Meanwhile, Softbank of Japan has proposed an $8 billion investment to buy Sprint and is already generating cash to pay for buying more spectrum, including spectrum from U.S. Cellular in the midwest.
Nicoll says Sprint and Softbank could shake up the wireless market if they use Clearwire's 2.5GHz spectrum for very fast (100Mbps or more) data-only service through dongles used with tablets and laptops. But that would probably focus on populous areas, not underserved areas.
T-Mobile and MetroPCS
T-Mobile's merger with MetroPCS, approved March 11th by the FCC and the Department of Justice, will add more spectrum for 22 of the biggest U.S. markets. It won support from the Rural Telecommunications Group (comprised mainly of smaller carriers), which argued that the combined entity will be a "thriving, LTE-based national competitor to AT&T Inc. And Verizon Wireless." The group also supports Softbank's takeover of Sprint, for similar reasons.
Recently, T-Mobile also proposed that the FCC require interoperability in the 600MHz band now used by broadcasters once it goes up for auction (no sooner than 2014) for use by mobile broadband providers. There's a possibility that this could bring more spectrum into use in underserved areas.
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