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FCC stalls Verizon AWS deal to examine T-Mobile swap

Wed, 06/27/2012 - 1:58pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

Verizon was aiming to speed along the FCC's review of its AWS purchase by swapping some spectrum with T-Mobile USA, but that strategy has now resulted in a 14-day delay in the government's process.

The Commission said Tuesday that it was stalling its informal deadline on the deal for two weeks to give parties time to comment on the operators' spectrum exchange.

The delay went into effect yesterday and will lift on July 10.

"This is standard procedure; the process is on track for approval this summer," a Verizon spokesman said.

Verizon is in the process of buying $3.9 billion worth of nationwide AWS spectrum from a group of cable operators that purchased the licenses during the FCC's 2006 auction.

T-Mobile was one of the most vocal opponents to the deal and repeatedly accused Verizon of hoarding its spectrum, but the agreement forged between the two operators this week has put an end to its criticisms, since the swap is contingent upon FCC approval of the AWS deal.

T-Mobile formally withdrew its petition to deny Verizon's AWS acquisition on Monday, the same day it announced the exchange of spectrum with Verizon. The swap gives T-Mobile spectrum covering 60 million people in several top metropolitan markets, and Verizon will gain spectrum covering 22 million people, plus an undisclosed cash payment from T-Mobile. The operators plan to use the spectrum for their respective LTE networks.

The FCC is still in the process of reviewing Verizon's purchase of AWS spectrum from Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Comcast.

The Commission is reportedly in favor of the proposed exchange of licenses between Verizon and T-Mobile, The Washington Post said this week.

The latest delay in the AWS sale marks the second time the FCC has decided to prolong its review. In May, the agency added three weeks onto its review process after Verizon and its cable partners failed to produce documents on time.

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