Wired broadband is all well and good, but significantly more high-speed internet access is going to come via wireless over the next several years, and everyone involved -- the carriers, the CTIA
, and the FCC -- knows that it's going to be a technical challenge to meet that reality. Spectrum
is one thing, but the bytes need somewhere to go once they hit the towers; that's where backhaul comes into play. AT&T and T-Mobile have both recently pimped
fiber upgrades that should significantly widen the tubes connecting cell sites to the backbone, but they aren't going it alone: cable companies see the writing on the wall, too, and are looking to backhaul for a profitable new line of business. It turns out that Time Warner Cable tripled its backhaul revenue last year alone and is said to be making a heavy push to sign new deals with both AT&T and Verizon; AT&T, of course, has famously had trouble keeping its 3G network humming smoothly in Manhattan over the last 18 months as an endless barrage of iPhones slam it, so TWC probably sees this as a clutch opportunity since they basically own the cable market in New York. For its part, AT&T won't discuss its backhaul deals -- but it's told us in recent months that it has a backhaul advantage over some of its competitors since it operates a huge DSL business, so it's hard to gauge exactly how much benefit AT&T could reap by taking TWC up on its offer. Now, if Time Warner had some spectrum
it wanted to offload, that'd be another matter altogether.