In a move to further boost its 4G LTE deployment in the US, AT&T has acquired a batch of 700 MHz B band spectrum from its major rival Verizon in a $1.9 billion cash deal.
AT&T says that the 700 MHz licenses will cover more than 42 million people across 18 US states, which include California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.
The operator will also receive Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum licenses in five of those markets.
According to AT&T, its spectrum purchase will “complement [its] existing holdings in the 700 MHz B band and will allow AT&T to continue to deploy 4G LTE services to meet demand for mobile Internet services on a wide array of smartphones, tablets and other devices.”
This comes just days after AT&T paid $780 million to purchase Alltel’s US wireless business to expand its rural coverage.
Verizon isn’t losing on the deal, it has said for a long time that if it was able to buy some of its rivals’ spectrum, it would discard the extra 700 MHz licenses it purchased during auctions in 2008. The spectrum doesn’t really work well with Verizon’s own networks, but is perfectly suited to AT&T’s, which has led to this point.
In November 2012, the operator announced that it has surpassed its LTE deployment plan ahead of schedule and had expanded its networks to cover more than 150 million people in the country.
The milestone saw AT&T more than double its 4G LTE coverage available at the end of 2011 but the operator said it would continue its network expansion to reach more than 250 million people by the end of 2013 and 300 million by the end of 2014. To put that in perspective, the carrier believes it will cover more than 90 percent of the US population in the next two years.
AT&T’s acquisition will be subject to regulatory approval, but it believes the deal will close “in the second half of 2013.”