AT&T pressed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for larger licence areas in the 3.5GHz band, noting smaller, census tract-sized permits would increase deployment costs.
In a filing, AT&T and infrastructure provider CommScope explained to adequately cover the borders of the smaller licence areas, operators would have to lower their transmission power and thus deploy more cell sites to cover the same space. That, in turn, would mean a “substantial increase” in both equipment and maintenance costs, and require more backhaul and siting approvals from local zoning boards and building owners.
With smaller licence areas, AT&T concluded operators would be forced to deploy extremely dense networks. It instead asked the FCC to implement larger, more traditional licence areas that would allow operators to use higher power for coverage.
The input comes as the FCC reconsiders its rules for the shared 3.5GHz band, which is also known in the US as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). Among other things, the regulator requested feedback on whether to expand the licence areas and lengthen licence terms from three years to ten.
AT&T isn’t alone in its request. Other incumbent operator interests, including Verizon, T-Mobile US and industry group CTIA, pushed the FCC to broaden licence areas for the 3.5GHz spectrum.
However, the recommendation puts operators at odds with other parties interested in using what was originally intended to be an innovation band in the US.
Google, as well as GE, regional operator Southern Linc and railway company Union Pacific, objected to larger licence areas, noting it would not make sense for them to try to outbid large operators for licences that extend far beyond their areas of operation.