AWS Lights Up Texas  

Stelera Wireless, an Oklahoma City-based rural broadband service provider has launched Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) in Floresville and Poth, Texas, notes Om Malik.

Stelera is a wireless startup that is focused on delivering broadband services in rural communities. It owns 42 AWS licenses across the United States covering almost 6 million people. It is the first mobile operator to utilize the AWS band (2.1 GHz and 1.7 GHz) in the United States.

The company will offer residential and business packages that cost anywhere from $60 to $100 a month. The speeds on an HSPA network are up to 7.2 Mbps downlink and 2 Mbps uplink. The I-HSPA technology from Nokia Siemens Networks can offer download speeds of up to 42 megabits per second. Stelera owns 42 AWS licenses across the U.S., mostly in rural communities.

Leap Wireless is another AWS operator poised to make a large push into East Coast and Gulf Coast markets using its AWS spectrum notes RCR News. Leap owns AWS spectrum along the Gulf Coast, from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Baton Rouge and New Orleans, La. The East Coast cities where Leap expects to build new markets include Wilmington, Del.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Md.; and Richmond and Norfolk, Va.

More recently, Leap and MetroPCS announced a merger, that brought two large AWS spectrum owners into more direct competition with the largest AWS spectrum owner in the United States — T-Mobile.

Headquartered in San Diego, Leap Wireless began as a spin-off of QUALCOMM and now owns licenses for 35 of the top 50 markets, including Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Washington D.C, and Seattle. Leap ended 2007 with approximately 2.86 million customers.

MetroPCS, headquartered in Dallas, has more than 3 million subscribers and holds 23 licenses through its subsidiaries in the South and Central Florida, Atlanta, San Francisco, Dallas, Detroit and Sacramento metropolitan areas.

Both MetroPCS and LeapWireless (under the Cricket name) acquired nationwide spectrum in the AWS auction last year.

Top 10 Highest AWS Bidders
Bidders Net total of high bids
1. T-Mobile $4.2 billion
2. Verizon Wireless $2.8 billion
3. SpectrumCo $2.4 billion
4. MetroPCS $1.4 billion
5. Cingular $1.3 billion
6. Cricket $710 million
7. Denali Spectrum $365 million
8. Barat Wireless $127 million
9. AWS Wireless $116 million
10. Atlantic Wireless $81 million
Click here to find out who is backing these bidders.

The FCC’s Advanced Wireless Services auction concluded in September 2006 and grossed $13.9 billion for the U.S. Treasury.

The big winner of AWS spectrum was T-Mobile, which spent some $4 billion covering virtually the entire country.

As an aside, some observers believe going beyond the $4.7 reserve price for nationwide 700MHz coverage would be imprudent. But considering you only need one third the towers at 700MHz for similar coverage, it could be a comparative bargain. Because 700 MHz is “open”, unlike the AWS band, it might be tougher for an operator like Verizon or AT&T to rationalize.

But without a legacy cellular network to protect — and a mobile advertising platform to generate revenue — 700 MHz could be a license to print money for someone like Google. Research firm Gartner predicts worldwide mobile advertising revenue will grow from less than $1 billion last year to $11 billion in 2011.

In related news, Nokia Siemens Networks was also selected by satellite phone company TerreStar Networks, to deploy Internet-HSPA solution for the TerreStar all-IP integrated satellite and terrestrial wireless communications system.

We don’t have to deal with all of the highways and byways that cellular carriers have,” said Dennis Matheson, chief technology officer for TerreStar. “But satellites can’t get to the mass consumer because they disappear into urban canyons. So we need the HSPA network to fill in the gaps.”

Nokia Siemens says it will be the first commercial I-HSPA network deployment, a technology that Nokia Siemens helped pioneer.

Their Flexi WCDMA Base Station uses an Internet-High Speed Packet Access (I-HSPA) architecture, which eliminates legacy circuit-switched technology. Optimized for native IP applications, including voice and data, I-HSPA is the only commercially available all-IP solution, and is optimum for edge deployment within TerreStar’s MSS service, says the company.

“I-HSPA still isn’t a replacement for WiMAX, not providing the bit-per-hertz efficiency of the OFDMA technology, but it’s not intended to be”, said Mark Slater Nokia’s VP of sales, in Telephony Magazine. Nokia, in fact, is straddling both sides of the fence, building a WiMAX portfolio in parallel with its UMTS (3G) cellular portfolio.

Devices normally connect through a base station and then are routed through specialized cellular gear before finally hitting the Internet. I-HSPA eliminates much of that cellular gear, allowing the device to connect directly to the Internet through a base station. Smooth handoffs between ajoining cell sites is said to be the downside.

TerreStar Networks, a satellite phone company, will leverage Nokia Siemens Networks’ I-HSPA technology as the foundation for development of their LTE (Long Term Evolution) services.

When TerreStar’s network is deployed, perhaps later this year, the company will provide universal access and tailored applications to millions of users throughout North America via mass market commercial wireless devices and spot beams.

TerreStar, which just announced $300 million in investor commitments through the launch of its hybrid mobile satellite, said Arianespace, the launch provider for TerreStar-1, has confirmed it can launch the satellite during the December 2008 through February 2009 launch window.

Competitor ICO also shares those MSS frequencies and boardchairman Craig McCaw would like to use ICO’s frequencies to carry mobile television as an adjunct to Clearwire’s Mobile WiMAX.

ICO plans to integrate its Mobile Interactive Media (MIM) suite of services with Clearwire’s broadband network. “Our next generation wireless personal broadband networks are built to deliver data, voice and video over a single network,” said Scott Richardson, chief strategy officer for Clearwire.

If Craig McCaw’s ICO can deliver live television to mobile DVB-SH receivers, who needs MediaFLO? Probably not Clearwire — or possibly Sprint’s Xohm. ICO’s first GEO satellite is scheduled to be launched in early 2008 with MSV’s hybrid service starting in 2009.

ICO’s G1 satellite is due to launch on an Atlas V launch next month by United Launch Alliance. ULA, by the way, is the product of a merged Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program (EELV) that stuck taxpayers with a $14.4 Billion bill for cost overuns due to Lockheed and Boeing’s duplicative rocket programs that ballooned from $17 billion to $32 billion in a few years.

Clearwire, a partner with Intel and Motorola, is committed to Mobile WiMAX, but I-HSPA handsets could be one option for AWS spectrum holders T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T — featuring dual-mode AWS/satphone connections.

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