January 25, 2008 / 8:49 PM / 12 years ago

FCC weighs approving AT&T buy of Aloha spectrum

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the Federal Communications Commission is pressing for the agency to quickly approve plans by AT&T Inc (T.N) to purchase $2.5 billion worth of wireless airwaves from a privately held partnership, sources said on Friday.

An AT&T logo is seen in this undated file photo. The head of the Federal Communications Commission is pressing for the agency to quickly approve plans by AT&T to purchase $2.5 billion worth of wireless airwaves from a privately held partnership, sources said on Friday. REUTERS/Files

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin circulated an order on Thursday among the agency’s four other commissioners that would allow AT&T to buy the spectrum from Aloha Partners, said the sources with knowledge of the draft order.

Martin circulated the order just before the start of a big FCC auction of valuable government-owned 700-megahertz airwaves in which AT&T is one of the potential bidders.

AT&T has said the Aloha licenses have coverage for a potential 196 million customers in 281 markets, including 72 of the top 100 U.S. markets in the same 700-megahertz frequency band. Aloha obtained the spectrum in a previous FCC auction.

Martin would need the votes of at least two of the FCC’s four other commissioners to grant approval.

There was no immediate comment from the FCC.

AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris declined to comment. “Since there has not been any official action from the FCC, we are not going to comment on speculation.”

FCC staffers reviewed the deal and raised no objections, the sources said.

The airwaves that went to auction Thursday could eventually bring U.S. consumers more advanced wireless services such as broadband access on mobile phones.

Other qualified bidders in the auction include Verizon Wireless and possible new competitors like Internet company Google Inc (GOOG.O), EchoStar Communications Corp (DISH.O) and Cablevision Systems Corp CVC.N.

Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L).

Editing by Tim Dobbyn

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