AT&T on Tuesday said it will pay $2.35 billion for these assets, which include licenses, spectrum, properties, and 1.5 million subscribers. The carrier said the deal will help it improve reception across the nation and expand its 3G services for handsets like the iPhone 3G and the BlackBerry Bold.
"Wireless continues to be AT&T's greatest growth driver, and this transaction will complement our existing network coverage, particularly in rural areas," said Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility, in a statement. "The acquisition will add network assets, distribution channels and 850-MHz spectrum in a significant portion of the U.S., enabling even better coverage for AT&T's subscribers in those areas."
Verizon agreed to the deal because it had to divest in certain assets in order to complete its $28.1 billion acquisition of Alltel Wireless. Alltel is not finished as an independent carrier, though, as it will retain about 2.2 million customers in 22 states. The swap also included assets from the former Rural Cellular, which was purchased by Verizon for $2.6 billion in 2007.
With more than 80% of U.S. customers having cell phone service, it's becoming increasingly difficult for the major carriers to see organic subscriber growth. This is causing the mobile operators to look toward acquisitions as a way to grow their customer base. Many industry watchers said U.S. Cellular is the most-attractive acquisition target because it has more than 6 million customers and is reportedly facing pressure to sell.
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