AT&T Springs $2.5B for More Spectrum

The country's largest wireless carrier buys the 700MHz licenses in anticipation of the spectrum auction in January.

With speculation swirling about AT&Ts participation in Januarys 700MHz spectrum auction, the nations largest wireless carrier hedged its bet Oct. 9 by acquiring the 700MHz licenses of Aloha Partners for $2.5 billion.

Aloha Partners, a Delaware limited partnership, holds licenses for UHF channels 54 and 59. The all cash deal will give AT&T 12MHz of spectrum covering 196 million people in 281 markets, including 72 of the top 100 and all of the top 10 markets in the United States.

AT&T, of San Antonio, anticipates receiving the necessary government approvals and closing the transaction within six to nine months.

"Customer demand for mobile services, including voice, data and video, is continually increasing," Forrest Miller, AT&Ts group president for corporate strategy and development, said in a statement. "Alohas spectrum will enable AT&T to efficiently meet this growing demand and help."

AT&T may also bid for additional spectrum in the Federal Communications Commissions January auction of the airwaves being deserted by television broadcasters as part of the digital television transition. The spectrum is considered ideal for advanced 3G wireless services since the airwaves penetrate walls and travel great distances.

However, the FCC confused the issue for AT&T July 31 when it voted to condition the sale of the 700MHz band upon the winner providing an open network where users can plug the legal devices of their choice into the network. Incumbent wireless carriers now limit the devices and software that can be connected to their networks.

AT&T opposed the conditions, which might open the door for Google or other technology companies to bid on the spectrum. AT&T and other wireless carriers want the FCC to make the spectrum available to the highest bidder. Verizon Wireless, the countrys second largest carrier, filed court papers Sept. 10 seeking to overturn the FCC decision.


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