ATandT, Qualcomm Spectrum Licensing Deal Approved by FCC

The company is purchasing 700 MHz spectrum licenses covering more than 300 million people for approximately $1.9 billion.

Network operator AT&T announced that it has received all required regulatory approvals for AT&T's acquisition of spectrum from Qualcomm, a bit of positive news for the carrier after the implosion of its proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA. The company is purchasing 700 MHz spectrum licenses covering more than 300 million people for approximately $1.9 billion. The companies expect to close the transaction in the coming days, AT&T said in a release.

"This spectrum will help AT&T continue to deliver a world-class mobile broadband experience to our customers," said Bob Quinn, senior vice president of AT&T's federal regulatory division. "We appreciate the FCC Chairman, the Commissioners and their staff for completing its review before the holidays. As spectrum is the lifeblood of the U.S. wireless industry, we are pleased that the FCC did not reduce the spectrum screen, however, we continue to believe any changes to the process by which it is allocated should be subject to open and transparent public discussion and clear to everyone with an interest in ensuring the health of our industry."

AT&T is under pressure from rivals when it comes to broadening spectrum, including Verizon Wireless, which just last week inked a deal with Cox Communications to sell to Verizon Wireless its 20 MHz Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum licenses covering 28 million POPs for $315 million. The agreement does not include Cox's 700 MHz spectrum licenses, the company's Cox Wireless customer accounts or any other assets.

However, the sale and transfer of Cox's advanced wireless spectrum to Verizon Wireless is subject to approval by the FCC and review under the Hart-Scott Rodino Act and other customary conditions. Cox announced last month that it would no longer sell its Cox Wireless service, but would continue to provide service to its wireless customers through March 30, 2012.

Separately, Cox and Verizon Wireless will also become agents to sell each other's residential and commercial products and services through their respective sales channels. Over time, Cox may have the option to sell Verizon Wireless' services on a wholesale basis. In addition, Cox expects to enter into arrangements with the innovation technology joint venture formed by Verizon Wireless, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks to better integrate wireline and wireless products and services.

In the meantime, AT&T decided to end its $39 billion bid for T-Mobile USA, the company announced in a statement Dec. 19. In the wake of the collapsing deal, AT&T will pay T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom some $4 billion in breakup fees, which will show up as a pretax accounting charge in the fourth quarter of 2011. It will also enter into what the statement described as a "mutually beneficial roaming agreement" with Deutsche Telekom, although further details were not disclosed.