Apple's new iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c aren't the only major pieces of mobile news breaking today, as AT&T just announced that it has officially closed the 700MHz spectrum deal that it entered into with Verizon earlier this year. As part of the deal, AT&T has gained spectrum licenses in the lower 700MHz band B block that cover 42 million people in California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.
AT&T says that it plans to utilize its new spectrum to support its 4G LTE network, which is expected to cover 270 million people by the end of 2013 and be substantially complete by the time that summer 2014 rolls around. In exchange for these 700MHz spectrum licenses, AT&T paid Verizon $1.9 billion in cash and gave the big red carrier some AWS spectrum licenses in Phoenix, Ariz.; Los Angeles and Fresno, Calif.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Portland, Ore.
AT&T has been fairly steady in growing its LTE footprint lately, rolling out new or expanded coverage every week or two. Now Ol' Blue is getting hold of quite a bit of 700MHz spectrum that it plans to use to continue to build out its LTE network, which is exciting news if you're an AT&T customer in one of the 18 states that the carrier gained 700MHz spectrum. Of course, it's not clear exactly when AT&T will actually begin utilizing its new spectrum in each of the 18 states, but at least you AT&T customers know that improved LTE service is headed your way.
In addition to announcing the completion of its spectrum acquisition, AT&T today committed to bringing interoperability to its 700MHz band spectrum. The issue of 700MHz interoperability is one that's been floating around for some time, as major carriers like AT&T and Verizon utilize different 700MHz bands than smaller carriers within the same spectrum. That's led to manufacturers opting to build hardware that works with the networks of the large operators, leaving the small carriers with few devices that work with their networks.
AT&T says that it intends to invest "considerable time and resources" to bring interoperability to its 700MHz LTE network and enable support for band 12 devices, the same band utilized by carriers like U.S. Cellular. AT&T also says that it plans to begin working with manufacturers to help add band 12 hardware to its own lineup. AT&T's full statements on both its 700MHz spectrum acquisition and its interoperability plans can be found at the links below.