Acadiana Business

AT&T boosting rural coverage with Alltel buy

by Leslie Turk

Telecom giant pays $780 million for network that covers about 4.6 million people in primarily rural areas across six states.

Dallas-based AT&T announced Tuesday that it has signed an agreement with Atlantic Tele-Network Inc. to acquire the company's U.S. retail wireless unit, operated under the Alltel brand, for $780 million in cash. AT&T is buying wireless properties, including licenses, network assets, retail stores and approximately 585,000 subscribers. Announcement of the deal sent Beverly, Mass.-based ATNI's shares up 11.8 percent, to $44, in morning trading.

ATNI operates under the Alltel name in the U.S., and its network covers approximately 4.6 million people in primarily rural areas across six states - Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina. The acquisition includes spectrum in the 700 MHz, 850 MHz and 1900 MHz bands and is largely complementary to AT&T's existing network. AT&T expects that as it upgrades the network, ATNI customers and existing AT&T customers who roam in these areas will enjoy an enhanced mobile Internet experience.

AT&T says integration costs for the network conversion will not have a significant impact on its earnings or cash flow.

The transaction must be reviewed by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice and is subject to other customary closing conditions. It is expected to close in the second half of 2013.