updated 12:42 pm EST, Fri January 25, 2013
Should allow AT&T to make significant LTE expansions
AT&T has bought $1.9 billion in 700 MHz B spectrum from Verizon Wireless, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. AT&T says that the licenses should cover over 42 million people in 18 states: California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming. As a part of the deal, it will also get AWS (Advanced Wireless Services) spectrum in five of those markets.
The purchase should allow AT&T some needed expansion of its LTE network. Although the carrier claims to have the US' largest 4G network, in reality much of that 4G is still HSPA+, a type of 3G that operates at 4G-like speeds. LTE is "true" 4G, and has a much higher bandwidth ceiling.
Verizon's own network isn't expected to suffer. The company has said it would be willing to jettison extra 700MHz licenses if it was able to buy spectrum from some of its rivals. The newly-sold spectrum also doesn't mesh as well as Verizon's network as it does with AT&T's, making the transaction a natural arrangement.
AT&T has said it hopes to bring LTE coverage to 250 million people by the end of 2013, and 300 million towards the end of 2014. The new spectrum purchase must still be approved by regulators; as a result, AT&T only expects it to be completed in the second half of 2013.