Verizon Plans 700 MHz Spectrum Sale
April 26, 2012
Last week Verizon announced it would sell off its A and B Block 700 MHz spectrum. This spectrum is in the lower part of the 700 MHz band, with the A-Block adjacent to TV Channel 51. Verizon will retain its upper 700 MHz C-Block spectrum, which is currently being used to provide 4G LTE service. It's announcement implied that the sale would make it easier for the FCC to approve Verizon's deal with SpectrumCo consortium (Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks); Cox; and Leap Wireless for AWS spectrum in the 2 GHz region.
Molly Feldman, VP of Business Development for Verizon Wireless, said, "Since wireless operators, large and small, have expressed concern about the availability of high-quality spectrum, we believe our 700 MHz licenses will be attractive to a wide range of buyers. Moreover, provided our acquisition of AWS spectrum is approved, our open sale process will ensure these A and B spectrum licenses are quickly and fairly made available for the benefit of other carriers and their customers."
As I've said before, UHF spectrum is attractive for wide area coverage in rural areas, due to its large range, but that advantage becomes a disadvantage in congested areas, as sites require large separation distances between transmitters. Multiple 2 GHz base stations can be located in the same area served by one UHF base station, greatly improving spectrum efficiency and reducing cost. In addition, Verizon's choice makes sense, as it's difficult to achieve the same MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) spectrum efficiencies at UHF frequencies achieved at shorter wavelength GHz frequencies, due to the limited space in handsets and portable devices for isolated MIMO receive antennas.
However, this sale announcement does not mean Verizon is abandoning UHF frequencies. It will retain its substantial paired C-Block spectrum currently being used for its wireless LTE network. The AWS frequencies in the 2 GHz range frequencies will allow it to use smaller cells, allowing greater frequency reuse.
It will be interesting to see how much Verizon receives for the A and B block 700 MHz spectrum. The values could provide an indication of future interest in bidding on voluntarily surrendered UHF TV channels.