FCC approves AT&T’s $1.9-billion purchase of Qualcomm spectrum

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The Federal Communications Commission has approved a $1.9-billion AT&T purchase of wireless spectrum licenses owned by San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc.

The purchase gives AT&T control over licenses that, according to the FCC, ‘cover more than 300 million people nationwide, including more than 70 million people in five of the top 15 metropolitan areas (New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco).’


The FCC’s decision on the spectrum deal was set to be delayed into next year as the regulatory agency was reviewing both AT&T’s proposed Qualcomm purchase and the proposed $39-billion takeover of T-Mobile USA together -- that was until AT&T dropped its T-Mobile plans on Monday.

In its approval of the Qualcomm deal, the FCC stated Thursday that AT&T cannot use the spectrum in a way that would negatively impact other carriers using or roaming on nearby wireless airwaves.

The FCC said that, given that AT&T is the largest phone company in the U.S. and the second-largest mobile carrier, concerns of competitive harm were looked at, but any resulting harm wouldn’t ‘outweigh the public interest benefits of this transaction,’ the FCC said in the order.

In fact, the FCC said it hopes the purchase will prod AT&T and its rivals to use the ‘underutilized unpaired 700 MHz spectrum’ for mobile service, ‘thereby supporting our goal of expanding mobile broadband deployment throughout the country.’


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+