AT&T hunts for 700 MHz spectrum in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia

AT&T (NYSE: T) is on the hunt for more 700 MHz  spectrum to fill coverage gaps in its footprint, a reminder that even though the carrier claims to have largely finished its LTE buildout it still plans to purchase additional spectrum to add coverage and capacity to its network.

AT&T filed documents with the FCC this week seeking to purchase  three Lower 700 MHz C Block licenses from East Kentucky Network. The licenses cover parts of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.

As is usual with such transactions, terms of the deal were not disclosed and AT&T claims the spectrum will allow it increase capacity, enhance existing services and let it launch new products and services in the license areas.

Under the agreement, AT&T would be assigned 12 MHz of Lower 700 MHz C Block spectrum in 20 counties covering all of three Cellular Market Areas (Huntington-Ashland, which touches all three states, and Lexington-Fayette and Madison in Kentucky). Post-transaction, AT&T would hold 113 to 145 MHz of spectrum in total, and 43 to 55 MHz of below-1-GHz spectrum, in the three CMAs.

Separately, AT&T struck a deal with Cellular Properties to purchase two Cellular A Block licenses and associated common carrier fixed point-to-point microwave licenses in two CMAs in parts of southern and eastern Illinois. AT&T would be assigned 25 MHz of cellular spectrum in 11 counties covering all of one CMA and part of the other. Post-transaction, AT&T would hold 101 to 173 MHz of spectrum in total, and 31 to 68 MHz of below-1-GHz spectrum, in these two CMAs in Illinois. 

The companies said that customers of both AT&T and CPI would benefit from a broader, denser and more advanced network, and that CPI customers would gain access to AT&T's services. In addition, the companies said that the transaction allows AT&T to expand its network capacity and coverage quickly and reduce roaming costs.

AT&T now claims to cover 308 million POPs with LTE and the spectrum transactions are likely part of AT&T's efforts to expand its network into areas where it previously did not have coverage. T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) has pursued such a strategy out of necessity to expand its own coverage footprint.

Last year T-Mobile acquired 700 MHz A Block spectrum to expand its LTE network coverage. In addition to the spectrum it acquired previously in that band from Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), T-Mobile purchased A Block spectrum from a host of players and now has A Block spectrum that covers 190 million POPs. T-Mobile plans to expand its LTE coverage to 300 million POPs by year-end, up from 280 million POPs now.

For more:
- see these two separate FCC filings
- see these two separate PhoneScoop articles

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T-Mobile confirms it has leased spectrum to other carriers to expand LTE network coverage
T-Mobile catches up with Sprint: Both carriers now cover 280 million POPs with LTE
AT&T makes progress on 700 MHz interoperability, likely benefiting T-Mobile

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