updated 01:15 pm EST, Sat December 10, 2011
FCC gives ATT 180 days approval window for 700MHz
The FCC on Friday posted that it had restarted the informal shot clock for approval of AT&T's buying Qualcomm's 700MHz spectrum. Retroactively applying the start to November 29, the federal agency expects to decide within 180 days whether or not it approves the handover. Most expect the AT&T to clear the deal given that Qualcomm wouldn't be using the spectrum following the end to its MediaFLO TV service.
AT&T, if cleared to go, will use the 700MHz space to boost its fledgling 4G LTE network's coverage and capacity.
The shift would be a consolation prize for AT&T. It backed out of the T-Mobile merger at least temporarily the same day as the Qualcomm deal went through in a recognition that the DOJ and the FCC were unlikely to approve the takeover. One of AT&T's central arguments was that it needed T-Mobile's spectrum to increase its capacity, and the Qualcomm deal could help offset those concerns.
The FCC regularly gives itself the 180-day target on approvals in an effort to cut down on the backlog and show that it can move quickly.