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T-Mobile buys Verizon wireless spectrum in $3.3 billion deal

The carrier will pay its rival nearly $2.37 billion and give it spectrum worth $950 million for some valuable low-frequency bands to help build its LTE network.

The pink areas show regions where T-Mobile expects to buy low-frequency spectrum from Verizon Wireless.
The pink areas show regions where T-Mobile expects to buy low-frequency spectrum from Verizon Wireless. T-Mobile

T-Mobile has signed a deal to buy blocks of 700MHz radio-frequency spectrum from Verizon Wireless for nearly $2.37 billion and to give up some wireless spectrum of its own worth $950 million, the company announced Monday.

Wireless spectrum is a precious commodity, particularly for a company like T-Mobile that's seeking to catch up to Verizon and AT&T in 4G coverage. The 700MHz range is useful because the lower-frequency radio signals penetrate building walls better and travel farther from antennas in rural areas; T-Mobile will be giving up higher-frequency AWS and PCS bands.

"This is a great opportunity to secure low-band spectrum in many of the top markets in America," T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere said in a statement. The purchase, if approved by the Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department, will mean T-Mobile gets new spectrum in nine of the top 10 markets and 21 of the top 30 markets, it said.

For the company to compete effectively, it must also shore up LTE coverage outside major cities, a necessity it didn't detail.

An FCC filing detailed some of the T-Mobile-Verizon spectrum swap, though not the cash payment that T-Mobile plans to make. T-Mobile scrounged up the money for the deal by selling bonds worth $2 billion and selling stock worth about $1.8 billion in November.

Both T-Mobile and Sprint are working to keep pace with AT&T and Verizon in the US. Softbank acquired Sprint and could be working on a deal to buy out T-Mobile USA, too. T-Mobile USA, meanwhile, is shaking up the industry with customer-friendly subscription plans and features such as free international roaming.

John Legere
John Legere kicks back in this Twitter photo. John Legere