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Verizon outbids AT&T in quest for 5G glory

Verizon agrees to pay $3.1 billion for little-known Straight Path, or nearly twice the price AT&T originally agreed to.

Verizon wants to get 5G into homes soon.
Roger Cheng/CNET

Verizon really, really wants to get its 5G ambitions going.

The nation's largest wireless carrier said Thursday it would buy Straight Path Communications, snatching the little-known company away from AT&T, which previously agreed to acquire it. Verizon said it would pay $184 a share, or $3.1 billion. That's nearly double the $1.6 billion AT&T offered. Verizon will also cover a $38 million breakup fee that Straight Path owes to AT&T for ditching that deal.

Why the obsession over a company few people have heard of? Straight Path holds a valuable swath of nationwide spectrum that runs at a high frequency -- the perfect kind of spectrum to power a superfast 5G wireless network.

The deal has the potential to kickstart Verizon's 5G ambitions, which are already rolling along through trials of 5G as a home broadband replacement service. The hype and excitement over 5G, which promises faster, more responsive networks, have drawn every carrier to stake a claim in the technology.

T-Mobile, for instance, has vowed to build a nationwide 5G network before anyone else. On Wednesday, Sprint committed to offering 5G services and devices by 2019. AT&T, like Verizon, is focused on 5G as a broadband service and a way to deliver DirecTV, at least initially.

An AT&T spokesman declined to comment on the deal.

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