AT&T has agreed to acquire wireless startup Straight Path Communications for $1.25 billion, giving it access to high bandwidth airwaves it needs to build 5G wireless networks.
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. According to AT&T, the licenses cover the entire U.S., including all of the top 40 markets.
The 5G network “is widely considered to be a multibillion-dollar opportunity, and wireless carriers do not have many options in terms of acquisition targets that would give them the right type of spectrum,” Reuters said.
AT&T said Monday it will pay $95.63 per share for Straight Path, a premium of 162.1% to the stock’s closing on price on Friday.
As Fortune reports, millimeter waves “are capable of carrying far more data than lower bands like 700 MHz currently used in 4G networks, but have trouble traveling as far and penetrating obstacles.” AT&T has already announced plans to conduct a variety of trials this year using the higher frequencies.
“The deal will give AT&T a major boost in its effort to build 5G wireless networks using high bandwidth airwaves,” Fortune said.
The race to provide 5G service has been heating up, with AT&T acquiring privately held FiberTower and its millimeter wave spectrum rights earlier this year and Verizon Communications, the No. 1 U.S. wireless carrier, closing on its acquisition of XO Communications’ fiber-optic network business for about $1.8 billion.
Between FiberTower and Straight Path, AT&T should have a similar amount of millimeter wave spectrum as Verizon if not more, Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche said in a client note.
The Verge noted that 5G still doesn’t have have a finalized specification from standards organizations like the International Telecommunication Union and the 3GPP. “But if these early spectrum investments are anything to go by, carriers are gearing up for the next big telecommunications battle,” it said.