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AT&T Agrees to Acquire Nextwave as Part of Spectrum Strategy

By Tess Stynes AT&T Inc. (T) agreed to acquire Nextwave Wireless Inc. (WAVE), a wireless technology firm that manages and maintains wireless spectrum licenses, for up to $50 million plus the repurchase of debt from bondholders. Nextwave shares soared to $1.25 in recent trading from Wednesday's close of 25 cents. In a separate agreement with Nextwave bondholders, the telecom giant will acquire several series of notes for roughly $600 million. Nextwave said the notes represent about $1.1 billion of debt. Some Canadian spectrum and other assets will be transferred as part of the debt redemption. As with rival Verizon Wireless, a majority of AT&T's wireless customers under contract now own a smartphone. This trend had led to stickier mobile customers for the carriers, and along with the growing popularity of tablets, higher revenue from data usage. However, the trend also has increased pressure to expand and upgrade networks to handle greater demand for wireless Internet access. The deal, expected to close by year's end, includes a $25 million payment, plus a contingent payment of up to roughly $25 million. AT&T said it expects the acquisition and changes that AT&T and Sirius XM Radio Inc. (SIRI) proposed to the Federal Communications Commission last month to represent an alternative approach to expanding network capacity. The companies have been seeking to free up unused spectrum for mobile Internet access. If approved, the proposal will enable AT&T to start deployment of the spectrum to expand its 4G LTE capacity in about three years. Write to Tess Stynes at Subscribe to WSJ:

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