FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski submitted a proposal to FCC commissioners to allow AT&T to deploy 4G LTE service over spectrum bands previously reserved for satellite radio.
AT&T set the action in motion earlier this year when the carrier petitioned the FCC with satellite radio provider Sirius XM to allow AT&T to utilize unused 2.3GHz Wireless Communication Services (WCS) bands in expanding its LTE network.
Then in August, AT&T purchased NextWave Wireless - a company that specialized in licensing wireless spectrum, in order to gain access to those bands.
AT&T's intent was to use NextWave's significant portfolio of unused spectrum, including a 20MHz portion of WCS bands, to expand its 4G LTE coverage in the U.S.
Naturally, the FCC is concerned
AT&T doesn't get to use that WCS spectrum for whatever it wants just because it purchased the licenses through NextWave, as the FCC still stands in its way.
"The proposed WCS rule changes and NextWave acquisition represent an alternative approach to creating additional wireless network capacity to help support skyrocketing wireless data usage on smartphones and tablets," AT&T said in a statement back in August.
But the FCC has reportedly rejected similar proposals in the past for fear that mobile internet on WCS bands would interfere with satellite radio signals.
Genachowski's recent proposal to the FCC commissioners to approve AT&T's WCS usage isn't the final word, but the chairman's support could ultimately spell victory for the carrier.
AT&T's opponents and proponents
AT&T has stated that if the move is approved, it could deploy additional 4G LTE service over the WCS bands within the next three years.
As with Verizon's proposal to purchase unused Advanced Wireless Service (AWS) spectrum from cable companies (which was eventually approved by the FCC), AT&T's recent actions are not without their opponents.
The Competitive Carrier Association, for example, reportedly claimed that AT&T's purchase of NextWave and use of WCS bands is an anti-competitive threat.
But if it's up to Genachowski, not only will the AT&T deal go through, but an additional 30 MHz of WCS could be reallocated in the future for mobile internet use. An FCC spokesperson told Engadget the following:
"Today's action is part of Chairman Julius Genachowski's continued efforts to remove regulatory barriers that limit the flexible use of spectrum, which is one way he has led the Commission towards helping address the continued 'spectrum crunch.'
"By unleashing 20 megahertz of spectrum now - and up to 30 megahertz in the future - the Chairman continues to leave no stone unturned when it comes to maximizing opportunities to refill the mobile spectrum pipeline that had begun to run dry over the last decade."