AT&T scoops up 40,000 customers, spectrum assets of Plateau Wireless

AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) is looking to purchase 40,000 customers, a handful of spectrum licenses and "related operations and assets" of Plateau Wireless, which offers wireless service across eastern New Mexico and West Texas and will exit the wireless business via the sale. The transaction, which still requires FCC approval, is scheduled to be completed in the second half of this year.

AT&T declined to provide the purchase price but said "the financial impact of this transaction will be minimal."

"This acquisition will enhance and supplement our wireless coverage in rural areas of southeast New Mexico and west Texas. We frequently do these sorts of deals as part of our commitment to give our customers a great mobile Internet experience," said an AT&T representative.

The carrier also disclosed details of the spectrum it is acquiring as part of the transaction:

  • In NM-4 (Santa Fe): 20 MHz of AWS A band, 25 MHz of 850 MHz B band, 12 MHz of 700 MHz C band
  • In TX-3 (Parmer): 20 MHz of AWS A band, 25 MHz of 850 MHz B band, 12 MHz of 700 MHz C band
  • In NM-2 (Colfax): 20 MHz of AWS A band, 25 MHz of 850 MHz B band

AT&T's LTE network works in AWS and 700 MHz spectrum.

Plateau said the agreement won't affect its other businesses including landline, fiber and IPTV services. Plateau Wireless is comprised of partnerships among Yucca Telecom, Five Area Telephone Cooperative, South Plains Telephone Cooperative, Mid-Plains Rural Telephone Cooperative and West Texas Telephone. According to the Clovis News Journal, Plateau plans to cut around 85 jobs due to the sale. The company currently numbers around 250 employees.

The transaction is separate from the one Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) announced with Plateau in 2012. Verizon acquired the wireless assets in New Mexico RSA #6, owned by E.N.M.R. Telephone Cooperative and its subsidiary Plateau Telecommunications and operated under the brand name Plateau Wireless. According to the Clovis News Journal, Plateau used the cash from the sale to upgrade its network to 4G.

Plateau is just the latest in a long line of regional wireless carriers that have sold to larger wireless carriers. In April, Verizon announced deals with Golden State Cellular in California and Mobi PCS in Hawaii. Earlier that month, Verizon agreed to buy Cincinnati Bell's wireless spectrum in a deal valued at $210 million. Other small wireless carriers that have exited the industry through mergers or acquisitions include Alltel, Clearwire, Centennial Wireless, Cox Communications, Dobson Communications, Leap Wireless, MetroPCS and Revol Wireless.

For more:
- see this Clovis News Journal article
- see this Plateau release (PDF)

Related Articles:
Verizon Wireless consumes Golden State Cellular and Mobi PCS
Regional wireless carrier Revol to shutter operations Jan. 16, some Revol stores switch to Boost
What the Cincinnati Bell Wireless collapse means for the industry and the upcoming spectrum auctions