AT&T's gotten involved in a couple of major acquisitions so far in 2013, including one deal that will see it purchase Cricket Wireless owner Leap Wireless and another agreement in which it would scoop up Alltel assets from Atlantic Tele-Network, Inc. Today the big blue carrier announced that it has closed the latter of those two transactions after receiving the FCC's seal of approval.
The FCC explained today that it has come to the conclusion that AT&T's acquisition of Alltel network assets, customers and more is likely in the public interest thanks to voluntary commitments made by AT&T as part of the agreement. Those include a promise to launch HSPA+ service across its newly-gained spectrum assets within 15 months, with LTE service expected to be rolled out within 18 months.
AT&T has also said that it will offer CDMA voice and data roaming on Alltel's 3G network through June 2015 and that it will give existing Alltel customers the opportunity to receive to a free handset that's comparable to their existing device without signing a contract.
In its announcement of the deal's completion, AT&T says that it plans to start upgrading Alltel's network to support its own flavor of 4G right away. Existing Alltel customers will be moved over to the AT&T network by mid-2014. AT&T will also be rolling out its 4G LTE service in individual markets, and the operator expects LTE to be "widely available" in those locales by late 2014.
Originally announced in January 2013, AT&T's deal with Alltel parent Atlantic Tele-Network, Inc. will see Ol' Blue drop $780 million in cash in exchange for properties in 6 states, including spectrum licenses and around 590,000 customers. This Alltel transaction is another step in AT&T's effort to expand its spectrum portfolio, an endeavor in which AT&T has already dropped $1.9 billion on some of Verizon's 700MHz airwaves. The good news is that Alltel customers aren't being left out in the cold as a result of the spectrum hunt thanks to AT&T's commitment to hooking them up with some free phone replacements to help them make the transition to AT&T's service.
Finally, AT&T has revealed that it expects to report record smartphone sales for the third quarter of 2013 that will help increase its smartphone-owning customer base by over 1 million. The carrier says that these strong smartphone sales are a result of new marketing and devices as well as its 4G LTE network. AT&T doesn't expect its fourth quarter sales to be quite as strong as the third quarter, though, pointing to higher upgrade expectations and the new 24-month upgrade cycle that it instituted in June.