Wednesday, August 03, 2005

FCC Approves Sprint/Nextel Merger

While officially the FCC only approved the transfer of control of spectrum licenses and leases from Nextel to Sprint, they're basically approving the merger, with very few conditions.

One condition, which will be of interest to the WiMAX watchers out there, is that Sprint committed to "offer service using BRS/EBS spectrum to at least 15 million Americans" (hmm, do they have to check passports of everyone in range of their towers?) within 4 years and to another 15 million within 6 years.

Of course, they can get out of this commitment if "circumstances beyond (their) control" prevent them from meeting it. Sort of like the circumstances beyond the control of SBC that prevented it from meeting a commitment it made to the FCC when it purchased Ameritech, to offer competitive local service in 25 markets outside its regions.

It is interesting to see the difference between the public safety obligations being placed on carriers in a mature industry such as cellular telephony and those being placed on service providers in an immature industry such as VoIP. As noted in Commissioner Copps's statement, Nextel will not meet the FCC requirements on cellular E911 until the end of 2007, two years after the FCC deadline. Not only is the FCC not requiring them to cut off service to their customers (unlike the guidance from the Enforcement Bureau given to VoIP service providers), it is not even imposing merger conditions related to E911 compliance.

Some would call this a double standard.