AT&T buys Qualcomm's FLO TV spectrum for $1.93B

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) agreed to buy the 700 MHz spectrum Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) uses for its soon-to-be-decommissioned FLO TV service, for $1.925 billion, which AT&T said it will use to enhance its planned LTE network.

The spectrum covers more than 300 million POPs. It includes 12 MHz of Lower D and E Block spectrum, which covers more than 70 million POPs in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and 6 MHz of Lower D Block spectrum, which covers 230 million POPs across much of the rest of the country. Qualcomm paid $683 million for the spectrum.

AT&T, which will launch LTE on its 700 MHz spectrum by the middle of next year, plans to use the additional spectrum as supplemental downlink capacity, using carrier aggregation technology, and plans to begin deploying the spectrum once compatible handsets and network equipment are developed.

Qualcomm, for its part, said it will integrate carrier aggregation technology into its chipset roadmap to support the supplemental downlink scenario, and intends to market the technology globally. Qualcomm also said it plans to develop LTE multicast technologies for high-bandwidth video and other multimedia content.

Peter Jarich, an analyst at Current Analysis, said carrier aggregation allows operators to take disparate bands of unpaired spectrum from multiple sources and pair it with existing spectrum holdings. "It's going to give them more spectrum and an opportunity to add some extra speed for the downlink," he told FierceWireless, referring to AT&T.

AT&T and Qualcomm said the deal is subject to regulatory approval and other closing conditions, and expect it to be approved in the second half of 2011.

Qualcomm in 2007 launched its FLO mobile TV service using the 700 MHz spectrum, and AT&T and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) resold the offering to users who purchased FLO-capable handsets. However, the service never garnered much interest, despite Qualcomm's attempts to take it directly to consumers via a handful of dedicated mobile TV devices. Qualcomm earlier this year disclosed plans to eventually discontinue the service and sell the spectrum.

For more:
- see this AT&T release
- see this Qualcomm release
- see this Bloomberg article

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