RCA Presses FCC to Move Rural Closer to 4G

By Tim McElligott Comments
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Now that Verizon has broken the logjam of exclusivity between Apple and AT&T regarding the coveted iPhone, the Rural Cellular Association is pressing forward on its longstanding mission to break it up altogether, starting with Verizon’s earlier commitment to provide smaller and regional carriers the opportunity to obtain access to popular smartphone devices six months after Verizon’s launch. 

In a letter to Lowell McAdam, president and COO at Verizon, RCA asked for affirmation on that commitment. RCA President and CEO Steven Berry said he was pleased to see that Verizon has broken the exclusive arrangement between AT&T and Apple, and is delighted that other carriers will have access to the CDMA iPhone, and it will not be an exclusive Verizon offer. “I hope that Verizon will re-affirm its previous commitment to allow smaller and regional carriers to obtain access to popular smartphone and other next generation devices six months after their launch. Further, I seek Verizon’s support in encouraging Apple to make the iPhone and iPad available to all RCA members within six months of their release," he said.

Berry said Verizon’s more than 180 million wireless customers stand to benefit from Verizon’s pledge.

However, the RCA’s other major concern over interoperability and roaming is seeing less movement and Berry warns that rural operators won’t be fooled again into bidding on spectrum they can’t use. Berry said, “Without interoperability, potential new bidders run the risk that the dominant carriers will again block their participation and competition, and they will be discouraged from bidding.  If the FCC does not mandate interoperability, ensuring licensees’ significant spectrum investments are put to good use, what incentives do rural and regional carriers have to bid on licenses in Auction 92 or any future auction?"

RCA filed comments with the FCC urging it to immediately resolve interoperability concerns in the 700 MHz spectrum to ensure the success of Auction 92 and all future spectrum auctions. In its comments, the RCA said mandating interoperability across the 700 MHz band, and in turn device flexibility and spectrum investment certainty, will allow rural and regional carriers, many of which own Lower A Block licenses, to compete with the larger carriers and will encourage competition in both current and future spectrum auctions. 

Berry said that in the interest of ensuring the highest possible value and maximum utilization of the spectrum offered in Auction 92, he strongly encourages the FCC to mandate interoperability throughout the 700 MHz spectrum and looks forward to working with the Commission as it moves forward on this critical issue. “I also think Congress will want to know if FCC auction rules maximize spectrum value and utilization," Berry said.  “Congress is on the hunt for more revenue, and high value spectrum auctions are a good source of revenue," he said.

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