AT&T has just announced that it's purchasing prepaid wireless provider Leap Wireless. The $15 per share cash deal — worth about $1.19 billion in total — rewards AT&T with all of Leap's licenses, network assets, retail stores and boosts America's second-place carrier by tacking on Leap's 5 million subscribers. Leap Wireless, whose network covers approximately 96 million people, is best known for its Cricket brand in the United States. AT&T says it plans to retain Cricket and expand the familiar brand to additional cites in the US.
The deal also has big implications for AT&T's spectrum holdings: the carrier says Leap's PCS and AWS bands are "largely complementary to AT&T’s existing spectrum licenses" and that it will "immediately" put all unused spectrum gained in the deal towards its growing 4G LTE network — once the acquisition is approved. Owners holding 29.8 percent of Leap shares have already agreed to vote in favor of the sale, but AT&T still needs to convince other shareholders and get the OK from the FCC and Justice Department. The company expects that process to take between six and nine months. Thankfully for Ma Bell, the road to gaining approval shouldn't be nearly as contentious as that of its failed T-Mobile buyout.