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AT&T pledges LTE compatibility, making way for smaller carriers

The mobile company agrees to modify its LTE network to support rural and regional carriers' bands; this means users will now have more options.

Small carriers around the US are likely rejoicing. AT&T announced it was revamping its network for LTE compatibility on Tuesday. This means that users will have far more options when choosing carriers for their LTE-enabled phones.

"AT&T, for its part, has committed to investing considerable time and resources to the modification of its 700MHz LTE network through the implementation of a newly-standardized software feature," AT&T's federal regulatory vice president Joan Marsh said in a statement. "That effort will allow AT&T's network to support Band 12 capable devices."

In the US, a common problem with LTE technology is spectrum fragmentation. Because of the lack of consistent spectrum bands, carriers have built their networks using incompatible spectrum frequencies -- basically causing a lack of interoperability.

AT&T and Verizon actually run on the same frequency, 700MHz, but are in different parts of the band and can't work with each other. T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel are each using their own different bands.

The Federal Communications Commission has been pushing carriers to make their LTE networks compatible for years. And, regional and rural carriers have long complained to the FCC that the mobile giants were dragging their feet on the issue. So, it's no small feat that AT&T has finally agreed to modify its network.

"America's mobile consumers have a reason to celebrate today: After many frustrating years, wireless carriers have finally reached a voluntary industry solution that will resolve the lack of interoperability in the lower 700MHz band in the most efficient manner," acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said in a statement. "This is a big win for consumers, especially in rural areas, who will see more competition and more choices. Also, by making it easier for small wireless carriers to compete, today's interoperability solution will spur private investment, job creation, and the development of innovative new services and devices."

While AT&T has pledged to make the switch, other carriers still seem reluctant. Verizon, for instance, has offered no indication that it'll alter its network to be more open.

In other AT&T spectrum news, the carrier also announced Tuesday that it completed its $1.9 billion acquisition of licenses covering Verizon's 700MHz B block, which the company will use for its 4G LTE deployment.

(Via GigaOM)