C Spire hits AT&T with federal antitrust lawsuitAlex Wagner - Deputy Managing Editor, News Desk
The list of lawsuits going on in the mobile world has grown again, as C Spire Wireless (also known as Cellular South) has filed an anti-trust suit against AT&T, Motorola and Qualcomm. The suit was filed last month and claims that AT&T, with the help of Motorola and Qualcomm, worked to run C Spire and other small operators out of business. C Spire believes that after the 700MHz spectrum auction in 2008, AT&T worked with the 3GPP to create the new Band Class 17, which made its spectrum and LTE network incompatible with the Band Class 12 spectrum purchased by smaller operators like C Spire. AT&T claims that it wanted the Band Class 17 because the spectrum used to broadcast TV in the 700MHz Lower A block interferes with its LTE devices and network.
C Spire also claims that companies like Motorola and Qualcomm helped get AT&T's Band Class 17 approved with the 3GPP group and that, when C Spire filed a petition with the FCC to require interoperability with the different 700MHz bands, representatives from Moto and Qualcomm threatened the carrier. All of these actions have led C Spire to feel that it's unable to get new devices because those manufacturers would rather build products for AT&T's Band Class 17. Plus, any new products that C Spire did get would be unable to roam onto bigger networks, leaving it only with the coverage it has in a handful of southern states. C Spire SVP for strategic relations Eric Graham issued a statement on the case:
"C Spire Wireless filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against AT&T and others who conspired to assist AT&T in creating and maintaining a private, discriminatory spectrum band for AT&T devices. This anti-competitive scheme has prevented C Spire Wireless from utilizing $192 Million worth of Lower 700MHz A block spectrum licenses acquired from the FCC at auction in 2008. We have asked the Court to stop this gross abuse of market power and to undo the harm AT&T and its co-conspirators have caused to consumers and businesses in our service areas. C Spire is also seeking damages for the harm suffered as a result of the defendants' conduct."
C Spire is asking the federal court to speed up this litigation and, if the court agrees, it could go to trial by September 2013. This lawsuit contains some pretty big claims from C Spire, and it'll be interesting to watch the case and see how AT&T, Motorola and Qualcomm respond. So far, none of them have offered a response to the suit. C Spire has already announced plans to launch its LTE network on the AWS and PCS spectrum it owns, which is expected to go live in September. Stay tuned for more on this case as it happens.