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Major US carriers sign agreement to share wireless spectrum

February 2, 2013 - Written By Silviu MarchiÈ™

Three of the biggest carriers in the US, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, signed yesterday an agreement to share their network space with each other. The move was made so that the three could experiment with the idea of having multiple frequencies to transport voice and data, avoiding traffic congestion in crowded areas. Having a lot of phones and modems on one antenna with voice and chunky data transfers (e.g.Youtube streaming, or OnLive gaming)  can cause a significant traffic bottleneck.

The carriers also will share the federal reserved frequencies, which is a huge chunk of spectrum (in the range 1755 – 1850 MHz band) and share their frequencies with the feds. Just to put the spectrum in perspective, it could transport the whole load of the three networks at 100 percent usage and then some.

Just to get technical, here are the frequencies that each of the carriers own privately (information according to Wikipedia).

  • AT&T
    • Voice: 850MHz, 1900MHz
    • 3G: 850MHz, 1900MHz (on GSM/HSPA+ technology)
    • 4G: 700MHz, 1700/2100MHz (LTE technology)
  • T-Mobile USA
    • Voice: 1700/2100MHz, 1900MHz
    • 3G: 1700/2100MHz, 1900MHz (GSM/HSPA+ technology)
    • 4G: 1700/2100MHz, (LTE technology)
  • Verizon Wireless
    • Voice: 850MHz, 1900MHz
    • 3G: 850 MHz, 1900 MHz (CDMA/EVDO technology)
    • 4G: 700 MHz, 1700/2100 MHz (LTE technology)

If you are wondering how an entity (for example a mobile provider, or Google with its wireless network for their Googleplex in Mountain View) gets hold of a frequency, the requester must go to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), the same organization that is tasked with approving mobile phones, and other radio-enabled electronics, to the US market. But the US is divided in geographical areas, called Trading Areas. The interested party must bid on each area individually, if it intends to have a nation-wide network.

The effect of this agreement will be the improvement of the speed on wireless data and voice traffic. And just in time too, since the 4G LTE (with stands for Long Term Evolution) traffic will be a real bandwidth consumer (not to mention battery usage, but that’s another story).

Source: Business Insider