AT&T came away from the FCC’s AWS-3 spectrum auction as the big winner, spending $18.2 billion for what it calls a “near nationwide contiguous 10×10 MHz block.”
In a press release, AT&T announced plans to begin deploying LTE service on the spectrum beginning in the 2017 to 2018 period, saying its working with network and handset suppliers, and industry standards bodies to move the deployment along. The carrier intends to use its new spectrum as supplemental downlink and uplink.
Following the auction, AT&T now says it covers 97 percent of the U.S. population with AWS-3 spectrum. The carrier says it bought 57 percent of the MHz POPs covered by the 20 MHz J Block spectrum available in the auction.
“This spectrum investment will be critical to AT&T staying ahead of customer demand and facilitate the next generation of mobile video entertainment,” John Stankey, chief strategy officer at AT&T, said in a statement.
But the huge amount of money AT&T committed to the auction will set back the company’s balance sheet for a while. The carrier expects that its investment in the AWS-3 auction and other pending acquisitions will put it above its 1.8x net-debt-to-EBITDA target. AT&T plans to use excess cash over the next three years to pay down debt.
Verizon also spent big on the auction, dropping $10.4 billion on 181 total licenses. In a statement, the carrier said it acquired spectrum covering 192 million MHz POPs or 61 percent of the U.S. population.
Dish Network spent $10 billion on the auction as well. The satellite-TV provider didn’t reveal any details about the amount of money it spent or its plans for its newly acquired spectrum.
T-Mobile, the auction’s other big spender with $1.8 billion worth of winning bids, did not issue a statement.