Breaking Analysis: Early Christmas for Device Makers, Sprint Pursues Remainder of Clearwire

Yesterday, Morning NewsDesk Host Kristin Feledy reported on many of the key mobile device makers, including Apple, Samsung and RIM, joining forces and sending a letter to Congress, pleading for more airwaves to accommodate the rapidly growing numbers of smartphones and tablets. They said Congress should encourage federal users to “become more efficient, to share with one another, to vacate, or to lease their spectrum.” Christmas came early for these companies when the FCC made a step in that direction yesterday, by fulfilling their wishes and allowing cellular services on a large block of satellite spectrum held by Dish Network. This is exactly the move that those device makers were looking for. SiliconANGLE Contributing Editor John Casaretto commented on how significant this is for those companies and consumers as well. He said, “It’s absolutely big. There’s this surging consumer demand for mobile data capacity.” He explained that this is part of a move by the FCC to free up to 500 megaHertz of spectrum for mobile broadband by the year 2020.

Casaretto speculated on Dish Network’s options with this spectrum, saying that it’s possible Dish could opt to launch their own national LTE service, but it’s more likely that they will sell the rights to another carrier. Regarding Dish building their own LTE network, he said, “It’s a difficult market, and I think they’re going to be looking at offloading this somewhere and doing the right thing [for consumers].”

The FCC also approved plans to auction off another set of frequencies next year, known as the H Block, to raise money for an LTE public safety network around the U.S. The H Block consists of two smaller bands of spectrum, each 5 megahertz across. It sits next to frequencies that Sprint is already using for LTE. Obviously Sprint will be in the front row bidding for these airwaves since it currently only has half as much LTE spectrum as its competitors AT&T and Verizon.

EE, the pioneer carrier of the U.K.’s first 4G network has announced its rollout will expand to seventeenmore towns by March 2013, allowing approximately four million people access to its network. It will also increase the network density in metropolitan areas already covered by the rollout. Casaretto said they are using a parallel strategy in which they are continuing to work on its network density in areas where 4G is already enabled, as well as upgrading its network backbone to support super fast speeds, such as DC-HSPA.

Sprint has made an offer to buy the rest of Clearwire for $2.1 billion. Sprint already owns more than half of Clearwire, and obtaining Clearwire’s remaining assets would give it more leverage. Casaretto concluded, “At the root of it, it’s about gaining more airwave spectrum. It’s a never-ending race.” Casaretto noted that Sprint has been on a buying tear, including airwave acquisitions from U.S. Cellular.  See the entire segment with Kristin Feledy and John Casaretto on the Morning NewsDesk Show.