AT&T Grabs Spectrum, Rural Subscribers with Alltel Buy

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for the biggest M&A during that time in the service provider-BSS/OSS spaces.**

AT&T has made a major play in the spectrum race.

America’s second-largest carrier has a deal in place to buy Alltel Wireless for $780 million. AT&T gets all of the Little Rock, Ark.-based company’s wireless properties, including retail stores, 585,000 subscribers and perhaps most importantly, spectrum licenses.

Alltel’s network covers 4.6 million people in Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina covering a lot of rural areas. The acquisition includes spectrum in three bands, all of which the carrier says complement its existing network. Atlantic Tele-Network Inc. (ATNI), Alltel’s parent company, operates a retail CDMA network for its subscribers in these areas.

AT&T expects customers will enjoy a better mobile Internet experience as it upgrades the network.

Verizon Wireless spent $28 billion in acquiring the majority of Alltel Wireless operations in 2008, but the FCC required the carrier to divest about 100 of those markets in order to facilitate competition. A year later, AT&T acquired about three-quarters of those operations across 18 states.

The merger is expected to close in the second half of the year if it gets regulatory approval and meets standard closing conditions.

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