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US Cellular interested in Verizon's unused 700MHz licenses, pushes for interoperability

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In a recent meeting with the FCC, US Cellular expressed interest in picking up Verizon's unused 700MHz spectrum licenses, but made it clear that it thinks interoperability between LTE networks is a vital network facing the cellular industry.

US Cellular Logo
US Cellular Logo

Last month Verizon announced that it would be willing to sell off its unused 700MHz spectrum licenses — if the government agreed to approve its purchase of $3.6 billion worth of spectrum from several cable companies. US Cellular appears to be interested, with the company's CEO Mary Dillon recently meeting with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to discuss the matter, while also pushing the FCC to take a stance in ensuring interoperability between 700MHz networks. According to a follow-up letter sent after the meeting, US Cellular stated that it could greatly help LTE devices running in band class 12 — one of four band classes used within the 700MHz spectrum — by purchasing the spectrum, but that it didn't necessarily need to do the heavy lifting itself. A purchase of the spectrum by AT&T, or a commitment from Verizon to support band class 12 devices could also have the same positive impact, it said.

Such a move wouldn't preclude the need for interoperability, however. US Cellular noted that it has been having discussions with both of the larger carriers about the issue, but without specific market factors demanding such a move it was concerned no progress was being made, and called on the FCC to "act quickly to promote interoperability within the lower 700MHz band." Network interoperability would strike at the device-centric lock-in that lies at the heart of the way most most carriers operate, so we're not surprised US Cellular's conversations haven't been productive. As consumers, however, we certainly hope they don't continue to fall on deaf ears.