AT&T has announced its intention to acquire the remaining assets of wireless carrier Alltel for $780 million from Atlantic Tele-Networks. The deal, all in all, includes Alltel’s markets, equipment, retail stores, and licensing along with 585,000 customers.
Four years ago, Verizon Wireless acquired the bulk of Alltel in a massive purchase totaling more than $28 billion, however FCC anti-trust regulations forced Verizon to leave behind 105 markets of Alltel on the open market. AT&T took the opportunity to initially purchase 79 of the 105 markets available in 2009, leaving the remaining 26 to Atlantic Tele-Networks. Today AT&T has decided to eat up the remaining chunk of Alltel, buying mostly rural regions, where it hopes the acquisition of wireless sites and spectrum will improve service for both Alltel and AT&T customers.
While the rather small Alltel acquisition only inches AT&T’s number of subscribers, it still closes the distance between it and Verizon, the number one carrier in the United States. The initial acquisition of Alltel in 2008 was the move that swept Big Red into the number-one seat, ousting AT&T, and leaving the carrier to play catch up ever since. While AT&T was the largest carrier momentarily in early 2011, it fell behind Verizon again and has remained in second place ever since.
AT&T has not yet stated when it expects to close the deal on the sale, and the acquisition still requires the blessing of both the FCC and the Department of Justice. AT&T’s last attempted acquisition, the botched buyout of T-Mobile in 2011, was shot down by the FCC and there’s no telling how the agency will rule on this case. Despite this, AT&T remains dead-set on continuing its efforts to acquire and merge with other carriers, going as far as Europe to scout for opportunities. The efforts of AT&T’s attempts to grow through acquisition will likely continue.
Update by Jeffrey VC: I’ve fixed a typo. Alltel will be purchased for $780 million, not $708 million.