updated 02:20 pm EST, Tue February 5, 2008
ATT Aloha Deal Approved
The Federal Communications Commission today approved AT&T's plan to buy 700MHz spectrum from Aloha, finalizing a deal first set in motion in October. The $2.5 billion deal was given to the American carrier despite reservations by FCC commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps, both of whom raised concerns that AT&T's exclusive access to this portion of the 700MHz band would potentially hurt competition and work against the public's interest in maintaining an accessible network.
The purchase could only serve to compound "round after round of consolidation" in the telecoms business in the US, Copps says, referring to mergers that have partly reversed the anti-monopoly steps that saw the original AT&T split up into several regional competitors. Both Copps and Adelstein have also expressed worry that there was little time to review the potential impact of the move.
Some of the concern stems from AT&T's plans for the frequency, which are expected to include mobile data and a potential phone service. Aloha's spectrum is separate from that involved in the FCC's 700MHz auction and is not part of the "C" block that now requires open access to any device and software. Although AT&T is involved in the auction, a future AT&T service using the Aloha spectrum could lock customers to specific handsets and prevent them from installing software that competes with paid AT&T services.