Verizon, AT&T

Verizon Communications said Thursday it had agreed to acquire spectrum owner Straight Path Communications for $3.1 billion, outbidding AT&T as the two telecom giants compete to develop 5G wireless networks.

The deal gives Verizon access to Straight Path’s extensive portfolio of millimeter wave spectrum, which is configured for 5G services and includes 39 GHz licenses that serve the entire U.S.

“Verizon now has all of the pieces in place to quickly accelerate the deployment of 5G,” Hans Vestberg, president of global network and technology at Verizon, said in a news release, describing the deal as “another step to build the next-generation network for our customers.”

Verizon will pay $184 a share for Straight Path, reflecting an enterprise value of approximately $3.1 billion and almost doubling the $95.63 per share offer that AT&T made on April 8. The stock had surged nearly five-fold since the day before AT&T’s offer.

As CNBC reports, Verizon and AT&T “are seeking to gain an edge in the race to develop a fifth-generation network (5G) that would offer faster downloads and boost internet-reliant products such as self-driving cars.”

4G LTE, the dominant cellular technology in the U.S., uses low-band frequencies below 1GHz. Straight Path owns 735 millimeter wave licenses in the 39 GHz band and 133 licenses in the 28 GHz band, making it one of the largest owners of licenses in that wireless spectrum.

“The low-band spectrum is highly desirable because of its usefulness in covering long distances and penetrating obstacles such as building walls,” Ars Technica noted. “But there’s only so much low-band spectrum to go around, and carriers and regulators are turning to higher-frequency bands for new 5G networks.”

As part of the acquisition agreement, Verizon will also pay a termination fee of $38 million to AT&T on behalf of Straight Path. The transaction “positions Verizon well ahead of peers in access to high-frequency spectrum holdings suitable for 5G,” analysts at Jefferies said in a note.

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