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VZW: AWS deal with cable ops won't affect backhaul

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 2:25pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

Verizon Wireless is working to refute Sprint's claims that its $3.9 billion purchase of AWS spectrum and marketing deals with a group of cable providers will reduce competition and raise prices for backhaul.

Representatives from Verizon and cable partners Cox Communications, Comcast and Bright House Networks met with two FCC officials from commissioner Mignon Clyburn's office late last week to explain "that nothing in the various commercial agreements … changes the MSOs’ ability and incentive to continue to compete vigorously and grow their backhaul businesses," according to documents posted to the FCC's website on Tuesday.

The agreements between the companies "do not contain any exclusivity provisions for Verizon Wireless related to backhaul," so the cable operators have incentives to attract new customers to their backhaul services.

Time Warner Cable, the fourth cable provider involved in the deal, was not represented at the June 28 meeting.

The statements contradict Sprint's warnings that the Verizon/cable tie-ups "would destroy even the limited backhaul competition that currently exists, replacing it with cooperation that will allow Verizon and the cable companies to increase profits through cooperation instead of competing on price."

Backhaul has become increasingly vital to wireless operators looking to add capacity amid increasing data traffic and will be key as providers move toward dense networks with large numbers of small cells.

Sprint's network modernization project uses large numbers of microcells to help manage traffic. Those microcells require additional backhaul from incumbent local exchange carriers and cable providers.

Sprint told the FCC it is already having difficulty procuring affordable backhaul for small cell deployments, and "with the loss of cable companies as effective competing backhaul providers, there is little hope for relief."

It wants the FCC to make Verizon and its cable partners provide backhaul services on a "non-discriminatory basis" and said cable providers should not be allowed to restrict wireless providers from accessing backhaul for microcells.

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