Today, Thursday, January 10, 2008, AT&T had two patent applications published for a system, methods, and apparatuses to implement a satellite radio system with feedback. The applications appear to represent an entire system, not just the receiver, although the focus appears to be on a receiver capable of providing feedback to a centralize system. A user is able to request information, for example, on a song and receive and email with the requested information. Or, the user can purchase a song, etc. The applications never mention XM or Sirius. The difference from a conventional satellite radio system is the two way communication. The receiver is connected to a network via broadband, telephone line, wireless communications, etc. There is a database in the broadcast station where information can be stored and accessed. The system is for mobile or fixed applications.
One has to wonder if AT&T is interested in deploying a satellite radio system elsewhere or perhaps might be interested in acquiring an existing system or perhaps supplying the technology to a third party. The concepts are nothing new, but these applications are very curious to say the least. GM and other have applications for two way communications; however, this might be the first application for a complete system including two way communications.
Make no mistake about it. These applications are for a complete system, including the satellites.
Digital Radio Feedback Apparatuses, System, and Methods
Digital Radio Feedback Systems
Update January 11, 2008: Upon reflection, it is more obvious with AT&T is up to. AT&T is a major WCS spectrum holder. Satellite radio is an allowed use of this spectrum. Through various mergers, AT&T has acquired enough spectrum that could possibly make satellite radio practical. Plus, technology has developed that would make spot beams more practical. There are only a few players left. It wouldn't take but a few players to come together for nationwide service. Most of the WCS license holders are planning to use WiMax, but it is not practical under the current regulations. They are trying to change the rules in order to make it practical and the same time the FCC is trying to determine the final rules for satellite radio repeaters. If rules are not adapted that would make WiMax practical, then satellite radio might be the next best practical use of the spectrum. It doesn't hurt to have that out there as a bargaining chip.
It is interesting to note that this application was filed after XM and Sirius announced the merger (September 24, 2007). Applications can be kept away from the public for up to 18 months, if we recall correctly. This was less than four months ago. They wanted this to be public. However, this is not new. It is based on an application filed in September 2003 and recently became patent on September 25, 2007. No doubt it is enough to give XM and Sirius pause for consideration.
Below is a map showing the ownership of the C and D blocks of the WCS band, which are regional markets. The yellow is the WCS Wireless spectrum that XM tried to acquire and is now control by NextWave Broadband. AT&T is shown in Green. With the exception of a below regions held by Comcast, NextWave and AT&T could combine for 10 MHz of nationwide service. They each have plenty of bargaining chips for Comcast's licenses.
Then, there is another 20 Mhz available with the A and B blocks. These are much more difficult to combine since the markets are smaller and have more owners. However, spotbeams could prove to be useful to pick up major markets. Below and maps of the A and B blocks. As stated above, NextWave Broadband now controls the WCS Wireless licenses. The maps are not quite up to date but are good enough to see what is possible. The Verizon licenses has since been acquired by Horizon Wi-Com. BellSouth was of course acquired by AT&T (aka AWACS).
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