A Foolish Week of Telecom

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Yarrrrrr!
Ahoy, you online pirates -- you're safe for at least another week from the likes of the United States Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced in a statement, "In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday's vote on the Protect IP Act." The events he refers to were the wave of online blackouts protesting that act, also known as PIPA, and also the House version, known as SOPA, or Stop Online Piracy Act.

First spawn
The initial results of the co-marketing agreements between Verizon (NYS: VZ) and a consortium of cable companies were seen Tuesday, when Comcast and the wireless carrier began their joint venture in Seattle and Portland, Ore. These strange bedfellows are offering consumers in those cities a bundle of services, which include wireless and wireline phone services, cable TV, and Internet.

There's already some controversy over those deals. Verizon says the market agreement details should not be included in the FCC's review of the spectrum transfer because the details are too competitively sensitive to be aired in public. Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) , T-Mobile, and others have a different view of the matter. They believe that if the terms of those deals aren't known, then the FCC could not determine whether they are in the public interest.

A new definition of "unlimited"
AT&T
(NYS: T) , Sprint, and other carriers offer unlimited data usage plans, but their definition of "unlimited" may be one unknown to most people. In the case of AT&T, at least, unlimited means that if you use too much data, your speed will be "throttled." What does that mean? Let an AT&T spokeperson fill us in: "[S]martphone customers with unlimited data plans may experience reduced speeds once their usage puts them in the top 5% of our heaviest data users."

Some AT&T customers may have a different definition of "throttle" in mind.

Food fight!
Remember just after Thanksgiving, when the FCC released its report essentially dooming AT&T's proposed merger with T-Mobile? If you do, then you certainly read about AT&T's rebuttal, calling the report an "advocacy" piece. Well they're at it again. A very spectrum-hungry AT&T is upset about pending legislation allowing for the sale of broadcast spectrum to also include a provision for the FCC to choose who could or could not join the bidding. But in a turning of the tables, T-Mobile has defended the FCC's right to do just that. Now that the nation's No. 4 wireless carrier is out from under AT&T's wing, it doesn't want the No. 2 carrier's deeper pockets -- or Verizon's, as carrier No. 1 -- to just take it all.

Tower sale?
T-Mobile may have to sell some of its towers to raise enough spectrum-buying money. Bloomberg has reported that Macquarie Capital USA analyst Kevin Smithen raised the possibility of "a hotly contested auction" for T-Mobile's towers. Bidders could include American Tower, Crown Castle International, and SBA Communications.

More LTE for Verizon
Verizon announced on Wednesday that its lead in the race to blanket the country with its LTE network has gotten a bit wider. The carrier will add five new markets, bringing its total LTE coverage to 195 markets. The network would then cover more than 200 million people.

They're giving it away!
Wal-Mart
is doing what it does best -- undercutting the competition. And to make sure it can't be underpriced, it's giving this particular product away -- that's for free, gratis, zip, nada -- with a two-year contract. The item? The Nokia (NYS: NOK) Lumia 710, the phone newly introduced to the U.S. handset and powered by Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system. T-Mobile handled the original U.S. launch and offers the phone for $49.95 with a two-year data plan, as does Best Buy.

Last one out, turn off the lights
Ah, WiMAX -- the technology that got Sprint off the ground first with a 4G-ish network, and what motivated the Sprint/Clearwire (NAS: CLWR) relationship -- is targeted to depart Sprint's network in 2015. To that end, Sprint has said it will not sell any more WiMAX devices. The good news here for dedicated WiMAX devotees, according to FierceBroadband's Dan O'Shea, is that the closer the 2015 deadline gets, the fewer users on the WiMAX network. Happy surfing while it lasts.

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At the time this article was published Fool contributorDan Radovskyowns shares of AT&T. The Motley Fool owns shares of Wal-Mart Stores, Best Buy, and Microsoft.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Wal-Mart Stores, American Tower, and Microsoft, writing covered calls in Best Buy, and creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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