AT&T to snap up Iowa's Long Lines as wireless acquisitions continue

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AT&T Mobility's (NYSE:T) acquisition spree is continuing, with the nations' No. 2 carrier agreeing to purchase the wireless assets and customers of Iowa-based Long Lines, the companies confirmed. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Long Lines CEO Brent Olson announced the acquisition of the rural wireless carrier's assets late last week in an open letter to customers. As part of the deal, which AT&T said it expects to close in late 2013 or early 2014, AT&T also agreed to purchase transport services from Long Lines using its fiber optic network. This transaction does not affect any of Long Lines' non-wireless network services, including landline voice, broadband Internet and cable TV programming.

Olson said that until the deal is complete it will continue to operate its business as normal, but that the transaction represents an opportunity for Long Lines customers to get access to AT&T's LTE network and more advanced devices. He said Long Lines plans to reinvest the proceeds of the sale to expand its non-wireless service offerings and fiber optic network.

"As part of its commitment to providing a great mobile Internet experience, AT&T is enhancing its wireless coverage in northwestern Iowa," an AT&T spokeswoman said.

Long Lines holds 700 MHz, AWS and PCS spectrum licenses, according to FCC data, mostly in Iowa, but also in others Midwestern states, including Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota.

"We are always looking for opportunities to enhance our wireless network in a way that makes sense for the company, our customers and our shareholders," the AT&T spokeswoman said. "With this acquisition we're setting the foundation for wireless network enhancements in northwestern Iowa."

The deal comes weeks after AT&T announced its plans to acquire regional prepaid carrier Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP). In the wake of that transaction, many analysts noted that more and more regional carriers are disappearing as the industry continues to consolidate. C Spire Wireless, U.S. Cellular (NYSE:USM), ATN, nTelos and Cincinnati Bell are among the last of the major Tier 2 wireless carriers that are still independent. Combined these carriers count around 7 million subscribers.

Financial analysts have said U.S. Cellular and nTelos could be acquisition targets for larger carriers, while C Spire has vowed to remain independent.

For more:
- see this Long Lines statement (PDF)
- see this Channel Partners article
- see KIWA Radio article

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