updated 07:30 pm EST, Thu December 22, 2011
FCC gives light conditions to ATT-Qualcomm deal
The Federal Communications Commission has quickly acted on its promise to reexamine AT&T's purchase of Qualcomm spectrum by approving the deal on Thursday. A three-to-one vote will give AT&T the 700MHz frequencies that Qualcomm was using on its short-lived Flo TV service. AT&T will primarily have to guarantee against interference and allow roaming from phones and tablets on rival networks.
The agreement, worth $1.9 billion, could take effect by the end of 2011.
Many had expected the FCC to grant the deal as a consolation prize to AT&T, which abandoned its T-Mobile takeover after it was clear that it couldn't make enough, if any, concessions to the Department of Justice or the FCC to overcome serious antitrust issues. The FCC hinted at approval for the Qualcomm terms when it let AT&T withdraw its merger application.
In making the deal, the FCC has still frustrated rival carriers and advocacy groups. AT&T won a concession in not being required to make its 700MHz space work with that from Verizon or others. Phones could still be made to interoperate, but AT&T wouldn't be required to offer support and could have devices that won't let subscribers switch without paying for new equipment.
The FCC may change the situation independently in early 2012, when it plans to look at whether or not LTE networks need to be compatible.