AT&T in $1.9bn Verizon spectrum purchase

US operator AT&T has entered into an agreement with rival Verizon Wireless to acquire 700MHz spectrum licenses for $1.9bn in cash plus AWS licences in several states. The 700MHz licenses cover 42 million people in 18 US states including California, Florida, New York, Texas and Washington.

According to AT&T the acquisition complements its existing holdings in the 700MHz B band and will allow the operator to quickly expand its 4G LTE services to meet demand. The company announced in November 2012 that it plans to reach 300 million people in the US with its 4G LTE network by the end of 2014.

It will also sell one of its own AWS licences to Grain Management, a US private equity firm focused on investments in the telecommunications sector, and will lease back spectrum from the firm in three markets. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval. AT&T anticipates closing the transaction in the second half of 2013.

AT&T has been aggressively boosting its spectrum portfolio in recent months, following the breakdown of a planned merger with T-Mobile USA in 2012, for which it was forced to pay its rival a $4bn fee.

In December last year, the operator was granted approval from regulators for its plans to go ahead with a $1.93bn deal to acquire spectrum from chipmaker Qualcomm. It acquired 6MHz of spectrum across the US in the 700MHz band, as well as another 6MHz of spectrum in five major metropolitan areas: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In August last year, it announced plans to acquire NextWave Wireless for $650m, which holds spectrum licences in the AWS and WCS bands. And just last week it also agreed to acquire the retail wireless operations of CDMA player Atlantic Tele-Network, which operates under the Alltel brand, for $780m in cash.

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