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FCC clears AT&T's $1.3B buyout of Leap Wireless, iPhone 5 coming to Cricket customers

Apple partner carrier AT&T on Thursday received approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to go ahead with a previously announced acquisition of prepaid mobile provider Leap Wireless worth $1.3 billion.


Under terms first announced in July of 2013, AT&T will acquire all Leap Wireless stock and network properties for $15 per share in cash, a deal that now amounts to $1.3 billion. As part of concessions to appease competition watchdogs, AT&T informed the FCC that it will be offering Apple's iPhone 5 to Cricket customers once the buyout is complete.

The acquisition was expected to be finalized sometime between January and March pending government approval, which AT&T received today from the FCC. Re/code was first to report the commission's decision.

According to the FCC's full transaction order, regulators looked at antitrust concerns, pubic interest, wireless spectrum analysis and other facets of the proposed deal. After numerous discussion, it was determined that Leap was not a so-called "Maverick" disruptor and that AT&T's plans to appropriate a portion of the smaller carrier's spectrum for its LTE rollout will benefit, not harm consumers.

Specifically, the acquisition gives AT&T spectrum in the PCS and AWS bands, which are "largely complementary" to the telecom's existing licenses.

As of the filing date, Leap has about 5 million subscribers spread over 35 states and spectrum licenses serving 137 million people. AT&T has over 110 million subscribers with a network covering approximately 308 million nationwide.

Leap's Cricket was the first prepaid carrier to offer Apple's iPhone in June 2012, selling the 16GB iPhone 4S contract-free for $500 alongside an unlimited plan priced at $55. At the time, the company was seen as paying a $150 subsidy to Apple.