‘I Love It When a Plan Comes Together’

I love it when a plan comes together” — kind of like what the folks at AT&T Wireless are probably thinking these days.

By Lawrence R. Krevor

Some of us are old enough to remember the actual origins of that phrase, now an ever-popular internet meme. In one of the most famous lines from the mid-1980s television show “The A-Team,” starring “Dancing with the Stars” icon “Mr. T,” A-Team leader Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith (George Peppard) declares, “I love it when a plan comes together” — kind of like what the folks at AT&T Wireless are probably thinking these days.

Why? Because FirstNet, the independent authority Congress created to develop, build and operate a nationwide broadband network for first responders, just awarded the contract for doing so to AT&T. It’s the culmination of a plan hatched in 2010 to make sure that a block of very valuable commercial spectrum stayed out of the hands of AT&T’s smaller wireless competitors.

Back then, the 700 MHz band, newly available for auction when broadcasters relocated as part of the Digital Television Transition, was the prized most sought-after “beachfront” spectrum for improving wireless network coverage. And the “belle of the ball” was a slice called the D Block, the best 700 MHz spectrum still available after the government auctioned off the rest. No bidder met the Federal Communications Commission’s initial D Block auction requirement, however, because it came with an uncapped obligation to build a public safety network in the D Block and adjacent 700 MHz public safety channels. So when the D Block auction failed, interested parties urged the FCC to drop the public safety obligation and re-auction the D Block as regular commercial spectrum. Carriers with little or no “beachfront” spectrum, such as T-Mobile and Sprint, liked the idea, as did the big 700 MHz auction winners: Verizon and AT&T.

This opinion article was written by Lawrence R. Krevor and appears in morningconsult.com.

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Lawrence R. Krevor is senior counsel at Perkins Coie and a former attorney at the FCC and Sprint focusing on spectrum. These are his personal views and not those of Perkins Coie.


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