AT&T Closes FiberTower Acquisition

UPDATE AT&T closed its $207 million acquisition of FiberTower Corporation on Friday, giving it millimeter wave spectrum that will be put to work later this year to begin the rollout of mobile 5G services. The carrier said it will receive a significant footprint in the 39 GHz band, with average holdings of more than 375 MHz in the top 100 markets.

The move comes a day after the FCC cleared the transfer of FiberTower’s remaining licenses to AT&T, Inside Towers reported. That followed the January 26 resolution of disputes between FiberTower and the agency over meeting build-out deadlines. To end the litigation and pave the way for the acquisition, FiberTower gave up all of its 94 licenses in the 24 GHz band and 595 licenses in the 39 GHz band. Additionally, AT&T agreed to pay the U.S. Treasury $27 million.

AT&T plans to use the 478 licenses of millimeter wave spectrum obtained in the deal to help meet its goal of being the first U.S. company to introduce mobile 5G in a dozen markets by late 2018. 

The FCC’s decision to clear the deal did not occur without controversy. Afterwards, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn thought the full Commission should have looked at the deal, stating the bureau review was incomplete. Objecting to the bureau decision doesn’t mean she would have voted differently, she said in a statement, but Clyburn believes the Commission’s stator obligations require the agency “to do more than simply consider whether AT&T’s 39 GHz holdings, post-transaction, exceed 1850 megahertz of millimeter wave spectrum. The Commission should also consider whether AT&T’s substantial holdings in other spectrum bands, including below 1-GHz, together with these 39 GHz licenses from FiberTower, could result in potential public interest harms.”

Clyburn was “disappointed” the Chairman didn’t honor her request to have the Commissioners make the final decision. An agency spokesman told Politico Clyburn couldn’t persuade any other commissioner to support her request and the deal approval followed precedent.

February 12, 2018

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