AT&T just announced that it's signed an agreement with Atlantic Tele-Network, Inc. (ATNI) to acquire the company's Alltel retail operations for $780 million in cash. For the money, AT&T will be picking up spectrum, licenses, retail locations, and most importantly 585,000 new paying subscribers. Essentially, the carrier is purchasing the remaining Alltel assets that the US government ordered rival Verizon to divest in 2008. After Verizon's own buyout of Alltel, federal regulators demanded it divest subscribers in 105 markets where it was feared Big Red could become too dominant. AT&T had already secured 79 of those markets while ATNI made away with 26. But assuming today's acquisition gains approval, AT&T will own all of it.
In terms of network resources, AT&T will gain spectrum in the 700 MHz, 850 MHz and 1900 MHz bands. Of course, Alltel's network is CDMA-based, meaning that customers will need to be transitioned (or "upgraded" in AT&T's words) to GSM, HSPA, and AT&T-friendly LTE. The company seems confident that endeavor shouldn't be too damaging to its financials, however. Pending the usual review from both the FCC and Justice Department, the carrier hopes to see the deal close by the second half of this year.