AT&T bolsters 4G play by buying Qualcomm spectrum

In what can't be seen as good news by cable operators already fending off wireline competition from Verizon (NYSE: VZ) FiOS and AT&T (NYSE: T) U-Verse, AT&T is bolstering its 4G wireless business by spending $1.92 billion for Qualcomm's spectrum licenses in the potent lower 700 MHz frequency band. The move will give AT&T a more powerful 4G offering at the same time its main wireless competitor, Verizon Wireless, continues to test a cable-crunching 4G-satellite offer with DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV).

The AT&T move does spell the end for Qualcomm's underused FLO TV service since the spectrum being sold was used by that subsidiary to deliver a package of TV channels over wireless. To be fair, Qualcomm already said it was going to shut down that business in March 2011 but by selling the spectrum, it's made it official.

FLO TV, though, is the afterthought. This deal means AT&T, already a wireless broadband bully with its Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iEverything connections, will be a full force player in the emerging 4G space with what many consider the best wireless frequencies for broadband services.

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Related articles:
Enhancing the cable network: A Q&A with Neustar VP Chris Drake
Verizon Wireless, DirecTV advancing 4G-satellite mix
Qualcomm shutters FLO TV, may use technology to mitigate wireless data traffic

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