AT&T to buy spectrum, 21,000 customers from C Spire's Corr subsidiary

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AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) is working to acquire the spectrum and subscribers of Corr Wireless, a wireless carrier that provides 2G GSM service in rural parts of Northeastern Alabama. Cellular South, now C Spire Wireless, acquired Corr in 2010 but now appears to be selling the company's spectrum and customers--21,000 of them--to AT&T. Terms of the deal, which still requires FCC approval, were not disclosed.

The transaction comes as little surprise. Since the 2011 collapse of AT&T's $39 billion bid for T-Mobile USA, the carrier has been working to acquire spectrum from a variety of other sources. For example, late last year AT&T obtained approval to purchase AWS and 2.3 GHz WCS spectrum from the likes of NextWave Wireless, Comcast, Horizon Wi-Com and San Diego Gas & Electric Company. The carrier said it would use the spectrum to reinforce its LTE network.

Last year, AT&T executives said the company has enough spectrum for the next five years, according to analyst reports from a meeting with AT&T's management.

As for AT&T's deal with CDMA carrier C Spire (called Cellular South in FCC filings), the transaction includes the transfer of Corr's customers to AT&T, which AT&T said would benefit Corr subscribers by giving them access to AT&T's nationwide, high-speed wireless network. The deal also involves 10 to 52 MHz of spectrum covering parts of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. Specifically AT&T would acquire:

  • 25 MHz of cellular B Block spectrum in three counties,
  • 10 to 15 MHz of PCS spectrum in 25 counties,
  • and 12 MHz of Lower 700 MHz C Block spectrum in 58 counties.

"The transaction will permit AT&T to quickly expand its network capacity in the license areas," AT&T, in an FCC filing, wrote on the spectrum licenses. "In some of these license areas, AT&T's current spectrum holdings are relatively thin, and, in some cases, AT&T holds neither AWS nor Lower 700 MHz spectrum (except for 6 MHz of unpaired Lower 700 MHz D Block spectrum). The spectrum additions made possible by this transaction will allow AT&T to expand the capacity of its network in order to keep up with consumer demands for data-intensive services and to deploy much more robust and spectrally efficient LTE services.20 In some areas, for example, the transaction will permit a 10x10 LTE deployment instead of a 5x5 deployment."

Carriers typically do not comment on spectrum purchases beyond their FCC filings.

AT&T isn't the only wireless carrier pursuing new spectrum. For example, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) paid $3.9 billion to acquire AWS spectrum licenses from a group of cable companies. And T-Mobile USA is hoping to merge with flat-rate rival MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) in order to bolster its nascent LTE network with Metro's spectrum.

For more:
- see this FCC post
- see this AT&T filing (PDF)

Related Articles:
Analysts: Including acquisitions, AT&T thinks it has spectrum for next 5 years
AT&T scores AWS, 2.3 GHz WCS spectrum for LTE
Verizon's Shammo: We have enough spectrum for 4-5 years
Cellular South completes deal for Corr Wireless

Article updated April 8 to correct headline. The deal still requires FCC approval.