FCC approves AT&T's $1.9b purchase of Qualcomm's 700MHz spectrum (update)

Christmas has come early to the execs at AT&T, who are likely celebrating the FCC's 3-1 approval to purchase Qualcomm's block of the 700MHz spectrum for $1.9 billion. The news comes as a bittersweet victory for Ma Bell, whose efforts to acquire T-Mobile turned sour earlier this year. Qualcomm's block of the airwaves, once used to facilitate FLO TV, now sits unused. Once the acquisition is complete, AT&T will use the new share of spectrum to increase download capacity for its burgeoning LTE network.

For the FCC's part, it has approved the deal with only a few stipulations: AT&T will be required to satisfy interference requirements and must offer data roaming to its competitors on the spectrum. That's not to suggest everyone's pleased, however. Rural cellular providers asked that, as part of the deal, AT&T must ensure that its LTE network is interoperable with the bands used by smaller networks. Sadly, the FCC has denied this request, ostensibly limiting the little guy from receiving Ma Bell's hand-me-downs.

Update: AT&T has gone ahead and released a wee bit of celebratory PR, which we're including after the break. Most importantly, it expects to wrap up the finer details in the next few days.

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AT&T Receives Regulatory Approval for Purchase of Wireless Spectrum from Qualcomm

DALLAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--AT&T* announced today that it has received all required regulatory approvals for AT&T's acquisition of spectrum from Qualcomm. AT&T is purchasing 700 MHz spectrum licenses covering more than 300 million people for approximately $1.9 billion.

"This spectrum will help AT&T continue to deliver a world-class mobile broadband experience to our customers," said Bob Quinn, senior vice president-Federal Regulatory, AT&T. "We appreciate the FCC Chairman, the Commissioners and their staff for completing its review before the holidays.

"As spectrum is the lifeblood of the U.S. wireless industry, we are pleased that the FCC did not reduce the spectrum screen, however, we continue to believe any changes to the process by which it is allocated should be subject to open and transparent public discussion and clear to everyone with an interest in ensuring the health of our industry."

The companies expect to close the transaction in the coming days.