Good, late-breaking news this Friday for AT&T: the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finally approved AT&T's planned $780 million acquisition of rural network Alltel (owned by parent company Atlantic Tele-Network Inc.) after earlier delaying the move over competition concerns. The FCC's stamp of approval will allow AT&T to go ahead and take over Alltel's retail outlets, a bunch of Alltel spectrum in 162 counties and 620,000 of its customers, which is most of what remains of Alltel following a 2009 acquisition of larger parts of the company by Verizon.
But the FCC still has some reservations about the deal, noting that "the proposed transaction will likely cause some competitive and other public interest harms in several local markets." Nonetheless, the FCC says that AT&T is addressing these concerns by voluntarily committing to deploying its own 4G HSPA+ service in Alltel cell areas within 15 months, which it says will be "likely to result in public interest benefits." Overall, though, the move continues the trend of increasing consolidation in the US wireless market, which leaves consumers with arguably better service, but ultimately less options.