AT&T agrees to acquire Alltel for $780 million to improve rural serviceAlex Wagner - Senior News Editor
Looks like AT&T is helping to get the week going with some big acquisition news. The carrier this morning announced that it has agreed to acquire the U.S. retail operations of Atlantic Tele-Network, Inc. That name may not sound familiar, but the company actually operates here in the U.S. using the Alltel name, which is likely one that more of you are aware of. AT&T will be dropping $780 million in cash on the deal, and in return it'll receive ATNI's licenses, network assets, stores and its 585,000 customers.
ATNI's network covers 4.6 million people in mostly rural areas of Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina. The network is made up of spectrum in the 700MHz, 850MHz and 1900MHz bands. which are compatible with AT&T's existing network. The ATNI network is currently CDMA, so AT&T will need to tweak it to integrate the network with its existing GSM airwaves. After that's done, though, AT&T says that the deal will improve its coverage in rural areas.
Some of you may remember that Verizon acquired Alltel a few years ago. However, Big Red was required to divest a little over 100 markets in order to get its deal approved by the government. AT&T scooped up several of those markets shortly thereafter, the remainder of which were grabbed by ATNI. Now it looks like AT&T has come back to finish the job. As part of the deal, AT&T subscribers in the aforementioned six states could benefit from some better rural coverage, while those folk on Alltel will need to get some new equipment that'll be compatible with AT&T's network. This deal, like all others, must be reviewed by the FCC and Department of Justice before it can be completed. AT&T expects the deal to close in the second half of 2013.