AT&T pays Sprint $59M in spectrum swap

AT&T Mobility will pay Sprint Nextel $59 million for spectrum in parts of Colorado, Oklahoma, Florida and elsewhere. The spectrum exchange between the two Tier 1 carriers was recently approved by the FCC and Sprint disclosed the value of the transaction in its recent 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"The spectrum swap mentioned in the Q is of a type that has been a common practice in the industry--carriers trade/sell bits and pieces of spectrum to each other in areas where a carrier has an excess of capacity," wrote Sprint spokesman James Fisher in response to questions from FierceWireless. "In this case, the transaction involved the exchange of some Sprint 10 MHz licenses in Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Kalamazoo, Pueblo (CO), Bend (OR), Routt County (CO) and Grand County (CO) for AT&T's 5 MHz license in Tampa, 2.5 MHz license in Knoxville and some cash."

In a filing with the FCC, AT&T said "the additional spectrum will enable AT&T to increase its system capacity to enhance existing services, better accommodate its overall growth, and facilitate the provision of additional products and services to the public in the areas of Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. ... The additional spectrum will also facilitate AT&T's continued deployment of GSM/EDGE and HSDPA/UMTS technologies."

Interestingly, the deal includes spectrum in Oklahoma City, a market where AT&T was forced to divest spectrum not once but twice--first as a condition of its merger with Cingular Wireless four years ago and then in 2007 as part of its acquisition of Dobson. AT&T argued that the FCC should approve its acquisition of the Oklahoma City spectrum from Sprint because neither its merger with Cingular nor its acquisition of Dobson contained "a prohibition on re-acquisition of divested spectrum," and because of what AT&T said was robust wireless competition in the Oklahoma City market. The carrier pointed out that Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, US Cellular and Clearwire all own spectrum in Oklahoma City.

For more:
- see Sprint's 10-Q filing

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