FCC approves Verizon’s spectrum purchase from cablers

Unanimous vote greenlights deal that raised competitive concerns

The FCC has approved Verizon Wireless’ deal with a clutch of major cable operators to purchase spectrum rights. The approval greenlights transactions that have generated concerns for its impact on the growth of the broadband biz.

The FCC’s approval means Verizon will acquire almost 20 megahertz of AWS spectrum from Cox Communications and SpectrumCo, which includes Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Brighthouse Networks. The $3.9 billion deal underscored the premium being put on spectrum as wireless companies build up their businesses and consumer demand grows.

Also approved in the FCC’s 5-0 vote was a spectrum “swap” between Verizon Wireless and Leap, and Verizon Wireless’s net assignment of spectrum licenses to T-Mobile.

The FCC set a series of conditions on the transactions, including that Verizon close its transfer with T-Mobile within 45 days of the close of the SpectrumCO deal. Other conditions have to do with Verizon providing signal coverage within a certain time frame to areas where it is acquiring spectrum. Other requirements have to do with roaming and that Verizon report on the state of broadband development.

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The spectrum is for Advanced Wireless Services, and Verizon plans to use it to build out its 4G network.

Some media watchdog and industry orgs, including the Writers Guild of America West, opposed the deal, saying it would hinder competition in growing areas of the media and telecom biz.