Might Verizon or DISH Hijack AT&T’s Leap Deal?

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AT&T, fresh off its announcement that it will buy Leap Wireless for $1.2 billion, might have to hold off the sharks before it’s all said and done.

Don’t be surprised if Verizon, the carrier’s biggest rival, makes a counteroffer, says Michael Rollins, an analyst with Citigroup. That’s because the spectrum AT&T gets from the deal would give Ma Bell more spectrum per million customers than Big Red has, The Street reported. And nobody wants to fall out of first place.

Buying Leap Wireless, which runs the Cricket Communications prepaid brand, also nets AT&T about 6 million more subscribers if they choose to stay with the brand. AT&T has a total of 107 million wireless subscribers, but only about 7 million of those are prepaid, under the carrier’s GoPhone and Aio Wireless brands.

DISH might stick its nose in things again. The satellite provider is licking its wounds after failing in its bid to buy Sprint (three-quarters of which was acquired by Japan’s SoftBank) and Clearwire (which Sprint bought). DISH wants badly to get into the lucrative wireless game itself.

And T-Mobile USA, which recently closed its acquisition of MetroPCS, might still be a factor, says Oppenheimer analyst Timothy Horan, who says it needs Leap’s spectrum more than AT&T does.

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