US round-up: Sprint to avoid AWS-3 auction; FreedomPop in new M&A discussions; US Cellular to offload towers

15 Sep 2014

Sprint Corp has declared that it will not participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) upcoming auction of AWS-3 spectrum, Bloomberg reports. The news agency quotes spokesman Jeffrey Silva as saying: ‘Sprint has decided not to participate in the FCC’s AWS-3 auction but will continue to evaluate the opportunities presented by the upcoming 600 MHz incentive auction.’ Applications for the auction, also known as Auction 97, were due last Friday, with the sale process scheduled to start on 13 November.

In related news, Sprint has reportedly changed tack with the deployment of its 2.5GHz LTE rollout, and will concentrate on ‘congested’ areas, rather than a broader deployment strategy. Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, new CEO Marcelo Claure was quoted by Seeking Alpha as saying: ‘When I got there [Sprint], the initial plan is, let’s just deploy 2.5[GHz] across our 33,000 sites [cell sites]. What it means is it takes you too long to be good anywhere.’

Mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) FreedomPop has been in formal M&A discussions with a publicly traded telecoms company that is not a Tier-1 US carrier, CEO Stephen Stokols has informed Fierce Wireless. The US currently boasts four Tier-1 (nationwide) wireless carriers: Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, Sprint and T-Mobile US; FreedomPop currently piggybacks on Sprint’s network. Last month TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate reported that the reseller was already in takeover discussions with an unnamed ‘major carrier’.

US Cellular has disclosed plans to sell off certain ‘non-strategic assets’, Fierce Wireless reports. Specifically, the company said it is now selling 595 non-strategic cell towers ‘in areas outside of its core market focus’. The company noted that Wells Fargo Securities and TD Securities are managing the potential sale.

US satellite TV giant DirecTV expects its merger with AT&T Inc to conclude in around April 2015, chief executive Mike White told investors at a conference on Friday. Reuters quotes White as saying: ‘We are optimistic that we will be able to get this deal closed in the first half of next year. My best guess right now is early April.’ AT&T’s USD48.5 billion bid for DirecTV, announced in May this year, is currently under review by US regulators.