What was considered the most influential consumer media trend of 2007 and '08 was how providers of many categories were bundling services together and going after one another in the market. Suddenly Comcast could compete with Verizon, or with something we used to call Cingular. The "triple-play" was changing not only the way services like broadband Internet and phone were offered, but the shapes and makers of the devices themselves.
Fast-forward nearly four years later, and that tide has almost completely subsided.
Last month, Cox Communications executed its plan to exit the wireless phone business, in a move that created an opening for another provider to step in to make the "triple" out of the "play." Two weeks ago, Verizon Wireless stepped to the plate by buying the wireless spectrum that Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks had been reserving for their wireless phone service. The three cable providers had purchased their spectrum at an historic bargain price, in a joint bid with Cox.
It looked as though VZW would make the same move to buy Cox's spectrum block, which everyone knew it wouldn't be needing anyway. Today Cox and VZW parent company Verizon confirmed that deal indeed took place: VZW will be getting access to spectrum covering Cox's 28 million points of presence (POPs), for $315 million.
Up to now, the major difference between the quality of spectrum that Verizon has been amassing for future LTE service, compared against its nearest competitor, AT&T, is that the bulk of Verizon's holdings stay in the 700 MHz range while AT&T is split between 700 and 1700 MHz. Lower frequencies tend to cover longer distances and penetrate through downtown buildings better (although on the other hand, there's something to be said for leaving a nice gap between one's downlink and uplink frequencies).
A year ago, AT&T agreed to purchase from Qualcomm a block of 700 MHz spectrum that Qualcomm was going to use for its FLO TV, a mobile TV service that never made it even to the launch stage in the U.S. That deal remains under review by the FCC, as smaller regional carriers claim that AT&T keeps making adjustments to its 700 MHz buildout plan, allegedly to prevent them from making satisfactory roaming arrangements for their older-generation equipment.