AT&T has agreed to purchase spectrum licenses from Qualcomm in the lower 700 MHz frequency band. The $1.925 acquisition is said to bolster AT&T's ability to provide an advanced 4G mobile broadband service "in the years ahead," the company said in a press release.
The spectrum being sold to AT&T is currently licensed to FLO TV, but that agreement with Qualcomm is expected to be shut down in March 2011.
The available spectrum acquired by AT&T covers more than 300 million people total nationwide. 12 MHz of lower 700 MHz D and E block spectrum is accessible by more than 70 million people in five of the top 15 metropolitan areas, including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The remaining 6 Mhz of lower 700 MHz D block spectrum covers more than 230 million people.
AT&T said it intends to deploy the spectrum as "supplemental downlink" once compatible handsets and network equipment are developed. AT&T and Qualcomm anticipate they will close on the sale in the second half of 2011.
While AT&T is still building its own 4G network, expected to launch in mid-2011, the company was recently beaten to the punch by its chief rival. Verizon's 4G long-term evolution network debuted earlier this month, offering 10 times faster download speeds in 38 metropolitan areas and more than 60 commercial airports across the U.S.
AT&T will partner with Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson to build out its LTE network, which will deliver higher broadband throughput and lower latency than the company's existing 3G network. But even before AT&T's 4G launches, the company has touted that its existing 3G network is 20 to 60 percent faster than its competitors.