On Tuesday AT&T said that it has signed an agreement with Atlantic Tele-Network, Inc. (ATNI) to acquire the company's U.S. retail wireless operations, aka Alltel Wireless, for $780 million in cold hard hash. Thanks to the agreement, AT&T will now own Alltel's wireless properties including licenses, network assets, retail stores and approximately 585,000 subscribers.
At one point Alltel Wireless, which began in 1943 as a telephone pole and cable installation company, was one of the biggest wireless service providers in the United States, operating in 34 states and having the largest footprint of coverage in terms of area. It focused on providing service to residential and business customers in small to medium sized cities, and relied on Verizon and Sprint for roaming in the other 16 states.
However in June 2008, Verizon Wireless purchased a majority of the company in a deal valued at $28.1 billion, but Verizon was forced to divest 105 Alltel markets thanks to the FCC. AT&T swooped in and purchased 79 of those divested wireless properties which resided in rural areas across 18 states. Acquired properties included licenses, network assets, and 1.5 million current subscribers.
The remaining 26 divested Alltel markets were purchased by ATNI in April 2010 which included licenses, network assets and 800,000 subscribers. Up until now, these were operated under its Allied Wireless arm using the Alltel name.
"[ATNI's] network covers approximately 4.6 million people in primarily rural areas across six states — Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina," AT&T said on Tuesday. "The acquisition includes spectrum in the 700 MHz, 850 MHz and 1900 MHz bands and is largely complementary to AT&T’s existing network. ATNI currently operates a retail CDMA network for its subscribers in these areas."
AT&T said the acquisition is subject to review by the FCC and the Department of Justice and to other customary closing conditions. However the company is expecting the transaction to close in the second half of 2013.