Subject: Editorial, General Tech | July 13, 2013 - 11:24 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: wireless, spectrum, leap wireless, cricket, AT&T, acquisition, 4g lte
AT&T Plans To Acquire Leap Wireless (Cricket)
In a counter move to the SoftBank-Sprint-Clearwire merger, AT&T has announced its intentions to buy out Leap Wireless and its Cricket pre-paid cell service brand. AT&T will pay as much as $15 per share, which amounts to a bit under $1.19 billion (79.05 million outstanding shares at $15 per share). Before the announcement, Leap Wireless was trading at less than $8, so the bid is fairly generous. So far, approximately 30% of shareholders have voted to accept the buyout offer.
In the buyout deal, AT&T will acquire Leap Wireless, its Cricket brand in the US, licenses, spectrum, Cricket brand, 3,400 employees, and its retail locations. Cricket currently has a 3G CDMA network and is rolling out a 4G network. The company has about 5 million subscribers. AT&T will get to add a bit more spectrum to its portfolio in the PCS and AWS bands. This spectrum held by Leap Wireless is reportedly complementary to AT&T’s existing licenses.
Interestingly Leap Wireless is not doing very well, and has about $2.8 billion in net debt, and its Cricket service is loosing subscribers. AT&T would also have to assume that debt. Cricket offers up unlimited plans that include unlimited voice calls, texting, and data. AT&T has stated that it would assume control of and maintain the Cricket brand. It will continue to offer service to existing Cricket customers and would also offer up its own 4G LTE network for use by Cricket pre-paid plans (phone hardware permitting). AT&T stated in a press release that it intends to use the Leap Wireless acquisition to “jump start AT&T’s expansion into the highly competitive prepaid segment.”
The buyout deal will need to be approved by Leap Wireless as well as by the US Department of Justice and FCC. If it successfully passes through the various regulatory bodies, AT&T expects the deal to close within the next six to nine months.
Personally, I have my doubts that AT&T will continue to maintain the Cricket service as is, especially when it comes to unlimited data. As far as its pre-paid expansion, it at least tried to go down this path before with its line of Go phones. I believe that this deal is mostly about padding out AT&T’s spectrum portfolio in a bid to head off Sprint, and maintain its position against T-Mobile and Verizon. The MVNO and pre-paid market is certainly growing and AT&T is going to want a piece of that market, but I also think that the last thing AT&T wants to do is cannibalize its own contract offerings by offering up a similar pre-paid service with unlimited everything for half the price. Sure, AT&T will take it versus getting nothing, but the company is going to have a hard time balancing both offerings in a way that does not negatively effect one or both of its pre-paid and post paid services.
What do you think about the deal, is this a good thing for Cricket customers? Is AT&T serious about wanting to jump into the pre-paid market?
Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2013 - 11:40 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Sprint, spectrum, softbank, LTE, FCC, clearwire, 4g lte
The FCC recently approved the acquisitions of Clearwire and Sprint Nextel by Japanese company Softbank. The deals have already been approved by the shareholders and the US DoJ. Now, with the FCC red tape out of the way, the acquisitions can move forward and are expected to be completed later this month.
Specifically, Sprint Nextel will be acquiring Clearwire, and it will in turn be bought out by Softbank.Softbank is Japans third largest mobile carrier with approximately 22% of the market last year. Sprint shareholders approved the acquisition on June 25th in a deal now valued at around $21.6 billion. The FCC commented that the deal would have "no adverse competitive effects" due to the merger because Softbank and Sprint are not domestic competitors.
In fact, the FCC believes that the SoftBank acquisition may help competition among the wireless carriers in the US as SoftBank will be able to add resources and expertise to Sprint, including adding additional captial to aid in Sprint's Network Vision plans to roll out nationwide LTE and upgrade all of its existing towers to multinode base stations that can operate on multiple simultaneous bands, including Sprint's 800 MHz and 1.9GHz spectrum. The Clearwire 2.5GHz spectrum may also play a part in the Network Vision upgrade and add even more bandwidth to Sprint's LTE arsenal.
Sprint/SoftBank plans to bring LTE to 200 million people in the US by the end of 2013, with more upgrades coming in the future. The extra resources from SoftBank will help Sprint to take on Verizon and AT&T in the US, which is both good news for consumers and for Sprint.
In addition to SoftBank acquiring Sprint Nextel, Sprint will be acquiring Clearwire for $2.2 billion. This will give Sprint full control over the 2.5GHz spectrum, and is happening in spite of Dish's complaints and counter bids. Sprint will control a wide range of spectrum that will rival both AT&T and Verizion, in fact.
In all, the approximately $23.8 billion deal will see a reinvigorated Sprint, and increased pressue on Verizion, AT&T, and T-Mobile to offer competitive plans and pricing (though the effects will not be immediate). It is not clear from the various announcements if Sprint will remain branded as such, or what will happen to the MVNOs that operate on its network. It is an exciting time for Sprint though, and I hope that it works out to better wireless options for US consumers.
What do you think about the merger of Clearwire, Sprint Nextel, and SoftBank?