Network chief likes AT&T's spectrum holdings -- as the carrier buys more

AT&T plans to acquire more licenses in 14 states

When AT&T technology and network chief John Donovan said on Monday that he felt good about the carrier's spectrum position, he had an extra reason for his optimism.

Donovan, senior executive vice president of AT&T technology and network operations, said at the Citi 2014 Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference taking place near International CES in Las Vegas that his company had enough frequencies for now.

"In the short and intermediate term I think we feel pretty good about where we are with the spectrum," Donovan said.

On Tuesday, AT&T announced it had reached an agreement to buy 49 AWS (Advanced Wireless Spectrum) licenses from Aloha Partners. The licenses cover almost 50 million people in 14 states, including California, Texas, Illinois, and others in the West and Northeast, AT&T said in a statement. It did not say how much it paid for the spectrum. The deal is expected to close in the second half of this year.

Having enough frequencies to carry the data that subscribers generate and use has been a high agenda item for AT&T and other U.S. mobile operators for years. Last year, AT&T bought Leap Wireless in a deal valued at about $4 billion, citing in part the smaller carrier's spectrum holdings. However, it's also common to hear carriers say their spectrum needs are covered for the immediate future. Saying otherwise would raise questions about their ability to provide adequate service to current and prospective customers.

But the growing need for spectrum isn't over, as mobile data demand grows by about 50 percent per year, Donovan said. Asked about an earlier estimate that AT&T needs about 10MHz more spectrum every 12 months, he said that's about right for high-demand markets, though subscribers' mobile use varies by geography.

There are two simultaneous trends that are both driving up volume and complicating the demands on the network, he said: A growing number of small, non-phone devices from the so-called "Internet of things" are constantly sending small packets, while consumers are viewing and uploading streams of larger video packets.

Donovan had good news for the hardware vendors filling the CES show floor with new devices this week.

"Devices are starting to proliferate and fragment," he said. One reason is shared data plans such as AT&T's, in which subscribers can add another device for a few dollars a month and use their existing pool of data, he said. Over the next two years, there will probably be more "style statements" in devices, as well as in-car mobile gear, health monitoring devices and probably more so-called "phablets," he said.

AT&T's national LTE network is now 90 percent complete, and the rest should be finished by midyear, Donovan said. It is finishing tests of VoLTE (voice over LTE) and HD (high-definition) voice and will announce the first markets for those advanced services early this year, he said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags CESCarrierstelecommunicationat&tmobile

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?